With right preparation, walking in winter is fine

  • Don't let the cold keep you from walking or jogging outside in the winter, but be sure to dress in layers.

    Don't let the cold keep you from walking or jogging outside in the winter, but be sure to dress in layers. File photo

Posted12/12/2015 7:00 AM

Q: Last year I started a walking exercise program in the spring. But by winter the cold temperatures drove me indoors. This year I'd like to keep walking year-round. Any advice?

A: Exercising in winter can be difficult, and many avid walkers get derailed when temperatures drop. But with the right clothing and preparation, almost any type of weather can be walking weather.


Here's some tips:

Warm up indoors

Cold air can make the transition to workout mode tougher. Doing an exercise warm up indoors will take stress off your heart and make winter walking feel easier.

Dress in layers

Dressing in layers helps you stay warm and dry. Remove and replace layers during your walk as needed.

For your first layer: Start with a light synthetic fabric, such as CoolMax or polypropylene, closest to your skin on top and bottom. It will pull sweat away from your skin and dry quickly.

For the second layer: This is your insulation. Look for a fleece, sweater or sweatshirt made of a synthetic fabric like Polartec or a wool blend that provides warmth while wicking away moisture. (Avoid cotton because it stays wet.)

For the third layer: This one protects you from wind, rain or snow. A waterproof or water-resistant breathable jacket and pants, such as those made of Gore-Tex, will keep you warm and dry.

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Protect extremities

Wear a thin, moisture-wicking pair of gloves underneath heavier mittens or gloves. That way you can remove the outer layer without exposing your skin if your hands get sweaty. And don't forget a hat.

Cover mouth, nose

This will warm the air as you inhale, making it easier to breathe on very cold or windy days.

Wear rugged soles

You may need to trade in your regular walking shoes for a sturdier, hiking-style pair for better traction and more warmth.

Get noticed

If you must walk when the light is dim, wear reflective gear so motorists can see you.

Watch for trouble

Head indoors at the first signs of frostbite (numbness, loss of feeling, or a stinging sensation in your fingers or toes) or hypothermia (intense shivering).

Stay hydrated.

You can become dehydrated in the winter, too. Drink plenty of water before you begin your walk. You may also need to carry water with you.

Always check with your doctor before exercising in cold weather if you have health conditions such as asthma, heart problems or Raynaud's disease that can be made worse by the cold.


Some avid walkers (not joggers) have a preferred winter walking alternative, eliminating the need for all of the above advice. They drive to a large indoor mall and walk briskly around the mall for 30 to 60 minutes at least five days a week.

That's worth considering.

• Dr. Anthony Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to AskDoctorK.com, or write: Ask Doctor K, 10 Shattuck St., Second Floor, Boston, MA 02115.

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