The Doctors column: Winterize your fitness plan |

The Doctors column: Winterize your fitness plan

When there’s a chill in the air, it’s tempting to skip your morning run or after-dinner walk. Although it requires extra motivation to work out in the winter, it’s worth the effort to stay in shape. Exercise helps control weight and boost energy; it improves your mood, sleep and sex life. It can help fight a long list of health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

New research suggests that moderate exercise also may help prevent stress and anxiety, and a habit of daily exercise may even reduce the severity of cold or flu symptoms by up to 40 percent, according to a recent study of adults over 50. Here are four tips to keep you working out warmly and safely:

Dress in layers. Exercise generates lots of heat, but when you start to sweat outdoors, you’ll feel chilled. Layering helps control body temperature, so you can shed or put clothes back on as needed. Start with a thin bottom layer made of a synthetic material that draws sweat away from your body (cotton will stay wet against your skin); then add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation and top with a water-and-windproof outer layer. And don’t forget sunscreen on exposed parts.

Cover your head. You lose about 50 percent of body heat from your head alone. Hands and feet also need extra protection: When it’s cold, blood flows to the center of your body to keep internal organs warm, leaving your extremities more vulnerable to frostbite. Wear thin gloves under a heavier pair, and for your feet, pull on an extra pair of regular socks or opt for the thermal kind.

Stay hydrated. You can become dehydrated in the winter, just the same as when you work out in the summer – the only difference is that it may be harder to notice during cold weather. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout, even if you’re not really thirsty.

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Plan indoor alternatives. Don’t let rain, snow or wind chills derail your routine. Instead, pop in an exercise video, opt for mall-walking, or try something new like yoga or kickboxing.

The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check for local listings.

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