How to Make Winter Workouts Safe for Joints and Muscles

How to Make Winter Workouts Safe for Joints and Muscles

Whether your New Year’s resolution is to start a fitness routine, get back on track after the holidays or simply undecorate the house, you’re probably dealing with body parts that have had some time off. The fact that it’s winter in North Texas could make those out-of-practice joints and muscles even more cold and stiff. You might be tempted to put off your workouts or leave the inflatable snowman in the yard until it gets warmer … say, perhaps in May. But don’t abandon your winter workouts!

Not only will a springtime Frosty be frowned upon by your neighbors, but you won’t be doing your body any favors, either. Regular physical activity has multiple benefits for people of all ages, including:

  • Reducing risk of
  • Improving
    • Aerobic fitness
    • Balance and coordination
    • Cognitive function
    • Flexibility and joint mobility
    • Mental health
  • Preventing
    • Bone loss (osteoarthritis) and muscle loss
    • Weight gain

Yet according to the CDC, only about half of American adults get the physical activity they need to help them reduce and prevent chronic illness. And a Gallup-Healthways study confirmed what we already suspected: Americans typically exercise more in the spring and summer and less in the fall and winter. So don’t cheat yourself and your health — get moving in spite of the weather!

Winter workouts: protecting bones, muscles and joints.

With a little bit of planning, cold-weather workouts can be safe, effective and even invigorating. Here’s how.

  • Dress in comfortable layers. You want to have enough clothing on to keep warm but not enough to restrict movement or cause overheating. It is possible to experience exertional heat exhaustion, including painful muscle cramps, in cold weather. The best way to avoid this is to layer thinner pieces of clothing made from breathable, natural fibers or wicking material. Be sure to drink plenty of water, In winter, your lungs work hard to humidify the cold, dry air by releasing more moisture as you breathe.

  • Warm your form. You’ve probably seen people jump right into their stretching routine before a workout — bouncing and pulling on tight muscles and cold joints. Then there are those who believe stretching should happen only at the end of a workout. While it’s true that warm muscles are more relaxed and have greater range of motion, making it safer to stretch them, a quick five- to 10-minute warmup, such as a brisk walk, light jog or some hip dance moves, is all that’s needed to heat things up. Stretching a few minutes into and after exercise —  especially during winter workouts — can help prevent muscle pain and injuries.

  • Know when to stop. There’s plenty of research to suggest that joints ache more when it’s cold. So an increase in joint pain and stiffness during the winter wouldn’t be surprising. But pain that worsens or doesn’t go away may be signaling something more serious. To avoid further injury, stop what you’re doing and ask if your hip or knee pain is:
    • Still there whether you’re standing, walking or lying down
    • Intense, burning or grinding
    • Present following periods of rest, inactivity or after a long walk
    • Making it hard to stand or walk for more than a few minutes
    • Accompanied by swelling or signs of infection

If you answer yes to any of these questions, consider making an appointment with an orthopedic specialist. There are new treatments and technologies that can help make joint pain a thing of the past, including life-changing, minimally invasive hip and knee replacement surgeries.

Take the Free Joint Health Assessment

  • If it’s icy, it’s dicey. Going for your usual walk or run when streets and sidewalks are icy isn’t a good idea. People tend to fall backward on slippery surfaces, which can cause broken bones and head injuries such as concussion. When the ground is frozen, opt for a home or gym workout instead. Or, consider it a cheat day and Netflix to your heart’s content. Just be ready to get back out there after the thaw.

When winter workouts lead to aches and breaks, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or visit Medical City Virtual Care for non-emergency medical treatment from your computer or smartphone.

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