Though it’s tempting to hang up your shoes for the winter season and wait for spring, there are plenty of benefits to running in the cold.
Cold weather jumpstarts a runner’s metabolism by preventing the body from preserving fat stores. That means it’s easier to burn calories and get rid of fat. Simply put, running in the cold is a great way to fight winter weight gain.
It also helps runners impacted by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Endorphins released in exercise are shown to increase positive moods and decrease depression symptoms. Plus, running outdoors helps increase energy and motivates runners to repeat workouts.
Most importantly, cold weather is the ideal running condition. It puts less stress on the body, which means it’s easier to run and allows for greater efficiency. That’s why the ideal temperature for marathoners is 45 degrees.
While it makes for perfect conditions, going on a winter run still needs to be done safely to avoid common injuries. Before making a winter running plan, consider these tips.
How to safely go running in the winter
Dress for the weather
Knowing how to dress correctly for running in the winter is simpler than one might imagine and doesn’t involve bulky layers.
A few key things to remember:
Dress like it’s up to 20 degrees warmer than it is.
Choose clothes suitable for temperatures 10 to 20 degrees higher than the current conditions. Doing so might seem counterintuitive, but remember that the body begins to warm the second it starts to move. Too many layers of warmth make for sweat, which could lead to a chill post-run.
Outfits should consist of three layers: synthetic base, insulative middle, and weatherproof top layer.
A proper synthetic base layer consists of technical fabrics to regulate body temperature. It extends down to the feet, which should be encased in wool or technical fabric to avoid moisture and trap warmth. It’s easy to skip a base layer, but important not to. They’re just as effective as bulky jackets but far less cumbersome.
In addition, don’t forget a weatherproof jacket such as a windbreaker or raincoat to keep the elements at bay.
Good running shoes are also important and should have strong traction in winter conditions.
Protect the extremities.
Winter runs come with an increased risk of damage to extremities. This could be as minor as dry skin or as serious as hypothermia.
Avoid these risks by wearing a moisture-wicking hat, running gloves, and a face mask. Skin balm is a great way to keep skin healthy and prevent frostbite.
Still not sure what to wear for today’s run? Runner’s World recommends the following:
10-19 degrees: 2 shirts, tights, gloves, hat, windbreaker jacket/pants
20-29 degrees: 2 shirts, tights, gloves, hat
30-39 degrees: long-sleeve technical fabric shirt, shorts or tights, gloves, hat
40-49 degrees: long-sleeve technical shirt, shorts or tights (gloves and hat optional)
Don’t skip your warm-up or cooldown
It’s often tempting to skip a warm-up or cooldown, but it’s important to do so when running outside in the cold.
Taking the time to warm up properly for a run will help to loosen the body and avoid potential injuries. Doing so will also help ease the body back into running after potential muscle atrophy due to lack of activity during Covid-19.
We recommend working through a variety of dynamic warm-up stretches and movements. Pick a set of five to six exercises such as lunges and jumping jacks for about 30 seconds each. Once the warm-up is complete, the heart rate should be elevated and the skin should feel warm.
Cooling down after jogging in the cold will help to relax muscles, lower heart rate, and alleviate future muscle soreness. Simply put, runners who cool down feel better.
There are three important elements of a cooldown:
Changing clothes immediately after the run to avoid chills and regulate body temperature.
Replace the used running hat with a fresh, warm one.
Consume a hot drink or soup to raise body temperature.
Plan runs carefully
Take some time to sit and plan each run.
Plan a route that won’t take longer than 60 minutes. Even in ideal conditions, longer runs increase the risk of compromising the immune system.
Once active, runners should stay within their aerobic zone (typically 40-70% of their maximum heart rate). It will feel slow for some runners but decrease bodily stress while still conditioning and maintaining the muscles.
Determining the aerobic zone can easily be done per the CDC’s guidelines. First, calculate the maximum heart rate by subtracting the age of the runner from 220. Then, multiply that number by the target number within the aerobic zone.
For instance: A 35-year-old runner wants to maintain an aerobic zone of 50% of their maximum heart rate. Their maximum heart rate comes to 185 bpm after subtracting 35 from 220. To stay within a 50% zone, they should aim for 92.5 bpm (.5 x 185).
The finish should be fast. Minimize the distance from the end of a run to a warm place in order to avoid falling body temperatures. If a run takes place in a neighborhood, finish at the end of the driveway. Likewise, if a run takes place in public, finish as closely as possible to a mode of transportation.
Lastly, hydrate before, during, and after a run. In dry winter air, the body actively works to keep itself warm. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of the body weight in ounces every day. For example, runners weighing 150 pounds should aim for 75 ounces of water.
How to stay injury-free when running in the cold
It’s just as easy to sustain an injury during the winter months as it is in the spring or summer. These could stem from an increase in mileage, old or improper gear, and treacherous terrains such as snow and ice.
The most common running injuries include plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and Achilles tendinitis.
While most running injuries can be helped with ice, stretching, and rest, some call for more extreme measures such as knee surgery if runners don’t listen to their bodies. Don’t hesitate to slow down or stop at any sign of swelling or sharp pain.
Here are some tips to stay injury-free for great runs:
Get a full night’s sleep
Warm-up and cool down
Use ice on inflamed areas
Plan to gradually increase mileage
Running in the winter is great for runners of all kinds, including beginners. Just remember that in order to stay as safe and healthy as possible, warm up consistently, upgrade your gear, and listen to your body.
The evidence against vaping is mounting, and a new study now links e-cigarettes with an increased risk for broken bones.
Over time, vaping appears to increase the risk for fracture of the hip, spine and wrist by 46%, according to the findings. Researchers said these fractures happen from falls while standing and even from lower heights such as sitting.
“My research has painted another potentially grim picture about electronic cigarettes,” said lead author Dr. Dayawa Agoons, a resident physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Pinnacle in Harrisburg, Pa.
“This joins a body of growing evidence in the literature showing that e-cigarettes might not be as benign as some people think,” he added.
The study is based data from more than 5,500 U.S. adults across all age groups who participated in a 2017-2018 national health survey.
Agoons stressed that these findings don’t prove vaping causes an increased risk for broken bones, only that there seems to be a link.
“I’m seeing an association,” he said. “I can’t really see if the hen came before the egg or the egg before the hen.”
It’s also not clear why e-cigarettes may increase fracture risk. Agoons noted that people who smoke conventional cigarettes also have an increased risk for broken bones, and it has been attributed to nicotine.
“Electronic cigarettes have a fairly decent amount of nicotine in them,” Agoons said. “So at this moment, one of our theories is that the same mechanism that happens in conventional cigarette smoking might be happening in electronic cigarettes as well.”
It’s also possible that other chemicals in e-cigarettes may contribute to fracture risk. More research is needed to know, Agoons said.
Earlier studies have linked e-cigarettes to other health issues, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and depression.
Agoons said health care providers should begin asking patients whether they use e-cigarettes and counseling them about the dangers, including the potential risk of weakened bones in both old and young people.
He said that more research and regulation measures are needed — research to establish what in e-cigarettes causes harm and regulation to protect the public.
“This study once again highlights the fact that e-cigarettes were brought to market prematurely without regulation — and only the word of manufacturers that they were safe and effective in assisting smokers to quit,” said Patricia Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y.
She said these findings add to a growing body of research indicating that e-cigarettes are a threat to users’ health.
“We know that many teens and young adults are using e-cigarettes,” said Folan, who wasn’t part of the new study. “Although more research may be needed, pediatricians and other health care providers should caution their patients about the serious potential risk to bone health.”
For patients interested in quitting traditional or electronic cigarettes, health care providers can recommend safe and effective nicotine replacements or other smoking-cessation medications that are U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved, Folan said.
The findings were published online Nov. 22 in the American Journal of Medicine Open.
SOURCES: Dayawa Agoons, MD, MPH, resident physician, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Pinnacle, Harrisburg, Pa.; Patricia Folan, RN, DNP, director and tobacco treatment specialist, Center for Tobacco Control, Northwell Health, Great Neck, N.Y.; American Journal of Medicine Open, Nov. 22, 2021, online
Dr. Kim Huffman, an avid runner, gets a fair amount of guff from friends about the impact that her favorite exercise has on her body.
“People all the time tell me, ‘Oh, you wait until you’re 60. Your knees are going to hate you for it’,” Huffman said. “And I’m like, ‘That’s ridiculous’.”
Next time the topic comes up, Huffman is well-armed: An extensive British analysis of prior study data has found no link between a person’s amount of exercise and their risk for knee arthritis.
The research team combined the results of six clinical trials conducted at different places around the globe, creating a pool of more than 5,000 people who were followed for 5 to 12 years for signs of knee arthritis.
In each clinical trial, researchers tracked participants’ daily activities and estimated the amount of energy they expended in physical exertion.
Neither the amount of energy burned during exercise nor the amount of time spent in physical activity had anything to do with knee pain or arthritis symptoms, the researchers concluded.
“This helps dispel a myth that I’ve been trying to dispel for quite a while,” said Huffman, an associate professor at the Duke University Medical Center’s division of rheumatology.
“If you add up the amounts of activity that people do and also the duration of activity, neither of those is associated with knee arthritis,” added Huffman, who wasn’t involved in the analysis.
Dr. Bert Mandelbaum is chief medical officer of the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer club and team physician for the U.S. Soccer Men’s National Team.
He agreed the study “further corroborates the fact that levels of exercise in one’s personal life do not increase the risk, the onset or progression of osteoarthritis.”
So where did this misconception come from?
Huffman thinks it’s because people mistake exercise-related injuries for the effect that exercise itself has on your joints.
“Right now, the clear risks for knee arthritis are genetics, injuries and female sex,” Huffman said. “People who exercise more may be more likely to injure their knee. That’s where I think the myth comes from.”
In fact, exercise can help ward off knee arthritis in several ways, Huffman said:
Flexing and extending the knee during exercise promotes the diffusion of fluid into the joint, promoting better nutrition.
An elevated metabolism created by exercise helps control inflammation in the knee joint.
Weight loss reduces the amount of load placed on the knee.
Exercise strengthens the muscles surrounding the knee, stabilizing it and reducing the risk of injury.
“I don’t think we’re finding that simple overuse or using your joint is a problem. It’s more an association with injuries and perhaps in the setting of obesity or high genetic risk,” Huffman said.
Your best bet is to choose an exercise that poses the least risk of a knee injury, Huffman said.
“If you want to go snow skiing, I don’t think that’s a huge problem but you’re probably going to be more likely to injure yourself downhill skiing than, say, walking in your neighborhood or training for a marathon,” Huffman said. “It’s not soccer or football or skiing itself. It’s just the risk for injury during those activities.”
On the other hand, exercise provides benefits that go far beyond healthy joints, said Mandelbaum, co-chair of medical affairs at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute at Santa Monica, Calif. He played no role in the research review.
“Physical activity is essential to optimize both physical and mental health and plays a central role in facilitating life’s quality and quantity,” Mandelbaum said. “The list of benefits includes decreased anxiety, better mood, decreased levels of coronary disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity, and therefore a longer life.”
The analysis was published recently in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology.
The Arthritis Foundation has more about knee osteoarthritis.
SOURCES: Kim Huffman, MD, PhD, associate professor, Duke University Medical Center, division of rheumatology; Bert Mandelbaum, MD, co-chair, medical affairs, Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute, Santa Monica, Calif.; Arthritis and Rheumatology, Nov. 3, 2021
It may look like bad news, but a new study says it’s not: The number of people younger than 21 who had total hip replacement surgery in the United States jumped from 347 in 2000 to 551 in 2016.
The increase wasn’t due to a rise in the number of children with inflammatory arthritis, which often prompts a hip replacement in the very young. That suggests that non-surgical treatments to control that painful condition are effective, said senior study author Dr. Bella Mehta, a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data on total hip replacement in U.S. patients younger than 21 from about 4,200 hospitals in 46 states. The mean age of patients was 17.
Osteonecrosis (the death of bone cells due to lack of blood supply), osteoarthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)/inflammatory arthritis were the most common reasons for total hip replacement.
Over the study period, total hip replacement for osteonecrosis rose from 24% to 38% of patients, but it fell from 27% to 4% for arthritis, likely due to recent improvements in drug treatments for arthritis, according to the study.
The findings were scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting and recently published in The Journal of Arthroplasty.
“Our study shows that although THA [total hip arthroplasty] procedures are increasingly being performed in young people, we aren’t seeing more of these patients seeking surgery for inflammatory arthritis,” Mehta said in a hospital news release.
“We’re doing a better job at treating these individuals so they don’t develop end-stage joint damage,” Mehta added. “Twenty years ago, we didn’t have access to effective pharmacologic treatments for these conditions, and now we’re using them well and helping these patients live a better life.”
Improvements in implant technology and materials have also made them far more durable than they were 20 years ago, so surgeons now feel more comfortable offering hip replacement surgery to young patients because their implants are likely to hold up under the wear and tear of decades of activity, noted study co-author Dr. Mark Figgie, chief emeritus of the surgical arthritis service at the hospital.
Mehta said the findings could be of value both to clinicians and young patients.
“I would use these results to say to a young person: ‘There are a lot of people who get these procedures; you’re not alone,'” Mehta said. “I find that, especially for young patients, knowing they’re not the only ones to experience something really helps. And it’s a life-changing procedure for them.”
A sore back often comes along with pregnancy. Here’s how to get relief.
Back pain is a common complaint among pregnant women. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 80 percent of expectant mothers experience low back and pelvic pain. Although the discomfort usually subsides after delivery, it may occur again during another pregnancy.
Back pain during pregnancy is a consequence of the changes your body is going through, but you don’t have to just stick it out. At-home treatments or a trip to an orthopedist can help relieve your discomfort so you can enjoy a comfortable pregnancy.
What Causes Back Pain During Pregnancy?
As the baby grows in your abdomen, your center of gravity naturally shifts forward. The extra weight of the baby combined with your forward tilt stresses your lower back and often causes pain.
Hormones play a role as well. A hormone called relaxin released during pregnancy loosens the ligaments in the pelvic area in preparation for the delivery through the birth canal. Yet the weakening of those ligaments saps your joints and lower back of the strength needed to support your back as it adjusts to the weight of the growing baby. This results in an aching back.
How to Manage Back Pain During Pregnancy
You can manage your pregnancy-related back pain with some at-home remedies and simple lifestyle changes. Always consult with your doctor about the best solutions, but here are seven techniques that are typically safe and effective.
Improve Your Posture. To counter-balance your forward tilt, stand up straight and keep your chest high. Relax your shoulders and back, and don’t lock your knees. A wide stance when standing provides optimal support. When sitting, make sure the chair has a supportive back, or slip a small pillow behind your lower back.
Lift Properly. If you must lift a heavy object, bend from your knees and lift with your legs. Don’t pick up the object by bending at your waist as that will strain your back. A better idea is to ask someone for help if you need to carry bulky items.
Wear the Right Shoes. Wearing high heels will exacerbate your forward-leaning posture. Switch to low-heeled shoes with good arch support. Another option is to wear a maternity belt to support your belly and lower back.
Get a Massage. A good massage is a relaxing way to take away your back pain during pregnancy (or anytime). Try booking an appointment with a massage therapist who specializes in treating pregnant women.
Stay Active. Exercises that strengthen your core muscles or your quad muscles can relieve back pain. Prenatal yoga with its emphasis on stretching is also beneficial. Try gentle workouts such as walking or water exercises, too. Just ask your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
Try Hot & Cold Therapy. Hot and cold therapy is a tried and true method for relieving back pain. When you heat your back, blood rushes to the sore muscles, which relaxes them and reduces pain. Cold has the opposite effect, but can be just as beneficial, particularly if you notice any swelling. By constricting the blood vessels, cold cuts down on the swelling and the pain.
Change Your Sleep Position. To help alleviate back pain, sleep on your side with your knees bent. You can slip a pillow between your knees if you’d like. If you do lie on your back, put a pillow under your back to support it, as lying straight can block blood flow to the fetus.
If you’ve experienced back pain before, it’s likely your back will be sore as you carry your child. But you can be proactive and try these measures to reduce your pain.