Published on January 12, 2018

The weather outside may be frightful, but exercising outdoors can be delightful

During these cold months in the northern great plains, most folks want to hibernate inside and drop all outdoor activities. However, there’s no need to spend almost half a year sitting inside.

“If you’re wondering whether you should get outside this winter, I say go,” says Dr. Dan Ostlie, an orthopedic and sports medicine physician at Essentia Health’s 32nd Avenue Clinic in Fargo. “If you wear the appropriate gear, you can enjoy the outdoors and stay fairly warm at the same time.”

It’s all about wearing appropriate layers when you exercise outside. Make sure you have a tight, thermal layer closest to your body to trap heat and wick away any sweat. An intermediate layer of fleece will add warmth, while an outer shell will keep the heat in and block the wind. 

“The fingers, toes, ears and nose are some of the most sensitive areas when it comes to cold weather,” says Dr. Ostlie. “You definitely want to make sure if it’s really cold, you’re wearing a face mask, hat, warm socks and gloves.”

Each winter, Dr. Ostlie sees a number of injuries from falls on the ice.  To reduce that risk, he recommends wearing spikes on your shoes – cleats like Yaktrax -- for improved grip.

Another tip for taking that run outside is to start your warmup indoors. Do a few jumping jacks or pushups inside your home before heading out for your run. It will get your blood pumping and let you start the run or walk with a little more energy and warmth.

“Consider exercising with a group or with a friend.” says Dr. Ostlie. “Find a buddy that will go on your walks or runs with you. If there ever is an emergency, there’s someone who can help.  You will also enjoy holding each other accountable on those cold days.”

Whether you’re running around the neighborhood, hiking through the forest or skiing down the slopes, don’t let Mother Nature stop you. Go out and enjoy the cold, calm beauty of the north.

If you have any concerns about getting active in these cold months, contact your primary care provider or the Essentia Health Sports Medicine program. You can find them at and click on “Find a Service/Specialty.”

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