Strategies for winter exercise

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SALT LAKE CITY — With the inversion hanging over our heads, and the cold weather chilling our bones, it's sometimes difficult to find the motivation to exercise outside.

"People ask me about running outside, and is that going to hurt their lungs at all? That's an old-age myth," said Jim Walker, sports science director at Intermountain Healthcare's Orthopedic Specialty Hospital.

Walker said people can go through the following steps to ensure their body works properly outside:

"Do some dynamic stretching-type stuff, indoors where it's warm, and you start out a little slower when it's cold," he said. "A warm muscle performs better and is less likely to be injured."

Walker added that people often underestimate their anatomy. "Our respiratory system is designed to warm and humidify the air before we breathe it," he said.

If you're wondering how fast you should move when the thermometer drops, the doctor has a good rule of thumb.

"Be able to talk comfortably as you're looking for an aerobic benefit, that way you won't be going too fast and get tired, and then not want to do it again," he said.

And don't forget about the cool down. It's even more crucial during the winter season, Walker said.

"You gain range of motion through your stretching routine after you exercise," he explained. "(Then) take a nice, hot shower, breathe in the steam from the shower — especially if you've been out where the air is a little dirtier."

You should also check the weather forecast for air alerts.

"If it's getting into the yellow-red range, you really don't want to be out there doing anything strenuous," Walker said.

But if air quality is in your favor, Walker suggests you commit 100 percent of your attention on the activity and the terrain you are on.

However, doctors say running in these cold conditions isn't meant for everyone.

"Especially if they're very young, or elderly, or if you have some type of respiratory problems, it's probably best to stay inside," Walker said.

In the cold, your muscles require more energy and use that energy at a faster rate, meaning you will get tired very quickly. The solution: eat more carbohydrates throughout the day and stay hydrated.

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