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updated: 1/14/2013 5:29 PM

Five Tips From Athletico Physical Therapy for Exercising Safely in Winter Weather

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Athletico Physical Therapy

Temperatures may be dropping, but that's no excuse to forgo fitness and spend winter hibernating on the couch. Still, you should take precautions before heading out for your frigid run or walk.

Athletico Physical Therapy, a leading provider of physical and occupational therapy in the greater Chicago area, recommends following these fitness tips when exercising during the winter months.

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- Warm-up inside: Stretching and warming up before exercising is always important, particularly in the winter when your muscles are tighter. Stretch and warm up in the house -- jog around, run up and down the stairs -- and then head outside for your winter workout.

- Winter wonder wear: Dress as if it is 10 -15 degrees warmer outside to prevent overheating. Also wear light layers, having your base clothing made of wicked fabric (not cotton!), as it pulls the sweat away from your skin and keeps you from getting chilled.

- Stay hydrated: It's just as important to drink water when exercising in cold as hot weather. You may not notice moisture loss because sweat escapes as a gas in the cold rather than a liquid. Drink up before, during and after your workout, even if you don't feel thirsty. Bring your own water bottle because park drinking fountains often are turned off in the winter.

- Watch your step: Winter often means ice, so be careful when you're out for your winter run or walk. If the sidewalk or street is icy, stay on the grass or invest in special shoes or traction devices that strap on your shoes. Never leave the house without identification and carry your cell phone in case you do fall and need to call for help. It's a good idea to run or walk with a friend during the winter months.

- Remember, the gym is an option: Although winter is not a deal-breaker for outside exercising, sometimes conditions are just too extreme to be safe. Check weather conditions before you leave and if it's 0 or colder or very windy, head to the gym.

If you do hurt yourself while exercising, consider seeing an Athletico physical therapist or athletic trainer. Athletico offers free 30-minute injury screenings, including an assessment of your condition, suggestions for self-care, and a plan for next steps. Visit www.athletico.com to learn more about how physical therapy can help alleviate pain and improve your life.

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