Iowa Specialty Hospital

Benefits and Tips for Walking Safely in Winter

January 16, 2024

Just like any season, winter can bring beauty. Snow and ice can form incredible landscapes. However, it can also bring cold, darkness, and, for some, loneliness. There are ways to fight or embrace the cold as part of seasonal fun. One such beneficial activity is walking. While walking in winter may not seem very fun to some, it can have many health benefits and allow for the chance to enjoy a season often neglected for its beautiful views. 


Some of the health benefits of walking outdoors in cold weather include the following:

Less Strain on the Body

Exercising in winter can often be less exhausting than in warmer weather, which means less strain on the body. With less strain from the weather, the benefits of walking in winter are enhanced. In general, cardiovascular exercises such as walking are known to help regulate blood sugar levels, improve mobility, and lower blood pressure. All of these benefits continue with walking in winter.


With colder weather comes different concerns when exercising. The numbing air and low temperatures are stimulating, but hypothermia can be a risk if you are not adequately prepared, so always dress warmly. There are also chances for increased heart issues in older people. Always consult your primary doctor for a pre-season consultation to ensure that your risks of winter walks are minimized.

Helps Control Winter Weight

As tempting as it may be to stay indoors during the winter with delicious baked goods and warm drinks, such indulgences can quickly add up to many calories. Lack of mobility can also cause fatigue and lethargy. A regular walking routine can help prevent both.


Besides fighting off the weariness of the cold, winter walks can help improve mobility and weight loss, just as walking does in warmer weather. Don’t risk health issues by spending winter indoors. Instead, embrace the benefits of the cold so that mobility and weight gain aren’t a concern when warmer weather returns.


If you’re not used to walking outside during the winter months, use these safety tips to help keep you warm and safe during your winter walks:

  1. Dress in layers. Wearing multiple light layers can help keep your body insulated while allowing heat to circulate throughout your body without becoming overheated. Your first layer of clothing should be moisture-wicking, and adding a layer of light fleece will help keep you warm.


  1. Cover your hands and ears. To avoid frostbite, keep the vulnerable areas on your body covered warmly.


  1. Wear proper shoes. Make sure that your shoes have more traction than a typical gym shoe. If they need more traction, you can look into ice cleats that can be added to the bottom of any shoe. Also, avoid mesh fabric as this lets in the frigid air, which can be dangerous to extremities.


  1. Wear a scarf. If you have asthma, the cold air may agitate your lungs. Wrap a scarf over your nose and mouth to battle the icy sting in the air.


  1. Wear bright colors. Since winters are known for dark mornings and afternoons, wearing bright-colored clothing and reflective gear is wise to ensure others see you when walking.


  1. Pick a safe route. Often in winter, sidewalk areas aren’t always shoveled. These can cause barriers to your route. Look for alternate walking routes that are appropriately cleared.


  1. Warm up first. Before you head outdoors, do a few jumping jacks or high knee exercises to warm up your body.


  1. Don’t forget to recover afterward. Recovering after you exercise outdoors in winter will help protect your muscles from cramping, soreness, and dehydration. Stretching and cool-down exercises are essential.


Most importantly, remember to be safe! Sometimes, it’s simply too cold to walk outside. If that’s the case, walk indoors or look for an alternative exercise, but above all, keep moving throughout the winter months.

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