Staying Safe in the Cold

by Louise | October 27th, 2009 | Family Fitness

feb vaca 021Here in New England, most of us already have seen the first snow fall of the year. If it is any testament to how volatile the weather can be lately, a few days later we saw clear blue skies and felt a comfortable 70 degrees. It would not be surprising to see more winter-like temperatures, even if many of the colorful leaves are still clinging to the trees.

CNN reports that “every year 700 people die from hypothermia and frostbite in the U.S.” The dangerous thing about frostbite and hypothermia is that, initially, they aren’t identified easily.  Frostbite occurs when the blood flow to a certain area, such as fingers, ears, or toes, is restricted. The area will turn pale, but because it is frozen, no pain is associated with it until the body is back in warmer temperatures. Hypothermia is also dangerous in that sense because shivering, caused by the cold, actually reduces in intensity as the body temperature drops lower and lower.

Because the symptoms of both of these dangerous ailments are misleading, preventative precautions are the best way to fight them:

  • If you are exercising in extreme cold, you should wear hats and gloves to prevent frostbite.
  • Wearing several light layers will keep your warmer than wearing one bulky one.
  • Exercise in areas that are not isolated so you don’t find yourself alone in the cold.
  • If you plan to stop for any prolonged period of time, make it in a warm, dry place.

Mythbusters busted the myth that brandy can help you stay warm if you are in conditions that can lead to hypothermia. The results showed that the brandy increased circulation (and thereby also warmth) to the extremities, however, this also led to more rapid heat loss, and a faster decrease of the core body temperature. Thus, drinking brandy might make you feel warmer at first, but it is probably one of the worst things you could do to your body in such a situation. Keeping alcohol out of your system will keep you more focused and in better physical condition than if it is in your system.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.