Smart Winter Walking

January 22, 2019

Staying physically active in the winter can be a challenge, but it can be done. Walking outside even when the temperature drops is a great way to stay active. Here’s what you need to walk smart all winter long - whether you’re walking in your neighborhood or around town on errands.

Smart clothes for your body

Walking experts have 3 main recommendations for comfort in colder weather. (1) Dress in layers (several thin layers are better than bulky layers). You will warm up as you move and may want to shed layers to minimize sweating (which makes you cold and uncomfortable). (2) Wear a hat (soft and warm rather than itchy or scratchy). Without a hat, heat is lost off your head and you’ll cool more quickly. (3) Wear gloves - or mittens, which usually keep your hands warmer.

Smart shoes and stuff for your feet

For both comfort and safety, choices in footwear are critically important. Sturdy boots or walking shoes with thick soles and deep treads are essential. Make sure that your footwear is the right size to fit cold weather socks. Start with a pair of thick wool or synthetic socks; add thin, inner socks when it is really cold. If your winter walks are frequently icy or snowy, get a pair of slip-on grips or ‘ice-trax’ (many types are available online and in outdoor stores for under $20).

Smart companions for fun and safety

It’s always nice to have a walking companion; family, friends, and dogs are all wonderful. (Think of a dog as a treadmill with fur - walking is essential for their health and yours!) Walking with a family member or friend provides bonding time and lively conversations make the miles seem shorter in any season. In winter, a companion also provides an added measure of safety in the event that you slip or fall (much less likely with the proper footwear described above).

Smart accessories for everyone

Visibility is a concern for winter walkers and people who need to see them. Drivers may have difficulty seeing you due to shorter daylight, blowing snow, or glare on sunny days. Fortunately, you and your pet can walk safely with LED lights and/or reflective clothing. For under $15, you can purchase different types of bright LED lights and reflective vests, hats, gloves, and belts, as well as dog leashes and collars. On days with lots of glare, sunglasses are also important for walkers.

Smart choices for your route

Finding a safe walking route is critical in any season of the year. However, routes that are perfect in spring, summer, and fall may not work in winter due to snow, ice, sleet, or rain. Look for trails that drain well or are maintained for winter use. If you live in a snowy part of the country, learn which sidewalks and parking areas are usually the first to be cleared after a storm. If conditions are bad, make the smartest choice of all; stay home until it is safe to get bundled up and go out.

Staying active is important all year long. Don’t let old-man winter keep you locked indoors. Get out and move by walking. Your body will appreciate it. For more information about fitness and health, contact your local MU Extension office.