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How exercising in the cold affects your body

If your new year's resolution was to exercise more, there are a few things you'll need to know about the weather before you break a sweat.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Happy new year! If your resolution is to exercise more, that might include running or walking around your neighborhood. And with winter weather turning the Carolinas cool this week, it's important to know how cold temperatures affect your body outdoors. 

One great thing about living in the Carolinas is that it rarely gets dangerously cold, so chilly temperatures are rarely an excuse to miss your daily fitness goal. 

But when is it too cold to exercise outside? When temperatures are below zero or the wind chill is 17 below zero or colder, frostbite is possible and you should avoid being outside if at all possible. Plus, when you jog or walk, you are creating your own increased wind chill. That's something to factor in before exercising outdoors. 

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However, when it's not too cold, studies have shown that workouts during winter can actually burn more calories than those during summer. Since our bodies must push more to keep warm, you should load up on nutrients when working out during the winter months so your body can replenish that stored energy. 

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Dieticians suggest having a heart carb-rich meal before an active day in the cold. They recommend eating at least two hours beforehand, then once you begin working out, you should have a small snack each hour. These snacks can include an energy bar, orange slices or a banana. 

Just remember that your body will fatigue faster in the cold weather without adequate fuel. 

Cold weather workout tip: Stay hydrated!

Whether it's 100 degrees or 30, your risk of getting dehydrated is the same. However, when it's cold outside, you won't feel nearly as thirsty. When you see your breath on a cold day, the vapor you see is your body losing water. 

NOTE: For every hour of physical activity, in the cold or the heat, the body needs 16 ounces of water. 

Contact Chris Mulcahy at cmulcahy@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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