EXERCISING IN COLD ENVIRONMENTS
Contrary to popular belief,
there are few real dangers in exercising at temperatures well
below freezing. Since the body produces large amounts of heat
during exercise, it has little trouble maintaining a normal temperature.
There is no danger of freezing the lungs. However, without proper
precautions, hypothermia, frostbite, and dehydration can occur.
If the body's core temperature drops below normal, its ability to regulate its temperature can
become impaired or lost. This condition is called hypothermia.
It develops because the body cannot produce heat as fast as it
is losing it. This can lead to death. The chance of a person
becoming hypothermic is a major threat any time he is exposed
to the cold.
Some symptoms of hypothermia are shivering, loss of judgment, slurred speech, drowsiness, and
Hypothermia develops when the body cannot produce heat as fast as it is losing it.
During exercise in the cold, people usually produce enough heat to maintain normal body temperature.
As they get fatigued, however, they slow down and their bodies
produce less heat. Also, people often overdress for exercise in
the cold. This makes the body sweat. The sweat dampens the clothing
next to the skin making it a good conductor of heat. The combination
of decreased heat production and increased heat loss can cause
a rapid onset of hypothermia.
Some guidelines for dressing for cold weather exercise are listed below:
Guidelines for Dressing for Exercise in the Cold
- Clothing for cold weather should protect, insulate and ventilate:
- Protect by covering as large an area of the body as possible.
- Insulation will occur by trapping air which has been warmed by the body and holding it near the skin.
- Ventilate by allowing a two-way exchange of air through the various layers of clothing.
- Clothing should leave your body slightly cool rather than hot.
- Clothing should be loose enough to allow air movement.
- Clothing soaked with perspiration should be removed if reasonably possible.
- Clothing should cover the head and neck. 40 percent of body heat is lost when the head and neck are uncovered.
- Feet should be kept dry.
Frostbite is the freezing of body tissue. It commonly occurs in body parts located away
from the core and exposed to the cold such as the nose, ears,
feet, hands, and skin. Severe cases of frostbite may require amputation.
Factors which lead to frostbite are cold temperatures combined with windy conditions. The wind
has a great cooling effect because it causes rapid convective
heat transfer from the body. For a given temperature, the higher
the wind speed, the greater the cooling effect.
A person's movement through the air creates an effect similar to that caused by wind. Riding a
bicycle at 15 mph is the same as standing
in a 15-mph wind. If, in addition, there is a 5-mph headwind,
the overall effect is equivalent to a 20-mph wind. Therefore,
an exercising person must be very cautious to avoid getting frostbite.
Covering exposed parts of the body will substantially reduce the
Dehydration can result from losing body fluids faster than they are replaced. Cold environments
are often dry, and water may be limited. As a result, one may in time become dehydrated. While operating in extremely cold
climates, it is important to check one's body weight frequently and drink liquids whenever possible.