Winter-related activities can take a toll on people's physical well-being if they aren't careful.
Some of these activities are difficult to avoid. Others are intended to take advantage of the season for personal benefit. Either way, they should be approached with safety in mind.
There's plenty of snow shoveling in a typical winter. Cardiology and exercise physiology experts at UW Health have offered some tips, including:
--Prep work. If the heart and muscles aren't used to the strenuous level of activity shoveling frequently requires--and even if they are--a little pre-shoveling movement (reaching, bending or leaning) is a smart place to start.
--Dress for the part. Wearing a hat and gloves not only protects one from frostbite, but helps keep the entire body warm. Dressing in layers can give the option of removing winter clothing if a serious sweat is worked up.
--Technique is everything. As when lifting boxes, keep the knees bent and the back straight while lifting snow--especially heavy, wet snow. Also be careful of twisting the body sideways when lifting a full shovel--it's easy to throw the back out in the process of throwing snow.
--Be wise--strategize. Shoveling a small amount of snow early in the snowfall, then going back out again is less likely to overtax the heart and back.
--Pace oneself. Stay within personal capacity during heavy shoveling to stave off serious cardiovascular issues. It's often safer to use a smaller shovel and make each lift lighter.
--Watch for warning signs. If experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea or lightheadedness, put down the shovel immediately and go back inside. If the new symptoms persist more than five minutes, call 911.
--Keep hands to oneself. Remember when using a snowblower to stay away from the augur blades and to turn off the machine before trying to perform repairs.
Meantime, exercising outdoors in cold weather offers the chance to burn calories. A fitness expert for Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) Club has this advice:
--Dress in layers. Start with a thin layer of synthetic material such as polypropylene, add fleece for insulation as a middle layer, then top with a waterproof, breathable layer.
--Protect extremities. Wear a thin pair of gloves under a heavier pair lined with wool or fleece. Buy exercise shoes a half-size larger than usual to allow for thick thermal socks or an extra pair of regular socks. Insulate the head and neck with a hat or ski band.
--Warm up before a workout. Walk and stretch to help loosen tight muscles. Loosening muscles takes longer in cold than in warm temperatures.
--Choose practical exercise gear. If it's dark outside, wear reflective clothing. Choose footwear with enough traction to prevent falls. When skiing, snowboarding or snowmobiling, wear a helmet and protect eyes with dark glasses or goggles.
--Remember sunscreen. It's easy to get sunburned, especially if exercising in the snow or at high altitudes. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and use a lip balm containing sunscreen.
--Drink plenty of fluids. Exercisers can become just as dehydrated in the cold as in the heat. Avoid alcohol, which has a dehydrating effect in opposition to the need to stay hydrated.
--Know when to go inside. Being wet and idle in freezing conditions increases the risk of hypothermia.
--Use common sense to be safe. On very cold days, stay close to shelter and don't go out alone. Having an exercise buddy is always a good idea.