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physical therapyOur last blog discussed misconceptions about cold weather exercise and some of the dangers.  Now we will discuss the proper protocol for staying safe while working out in the cold.

The best defense against frostbite and hypothermia is to dress appropriately.  THIS DOES NOT MEAN TO OVERDRESS!  If you overdress, then you will sweat more, thus resulting in a greater loss of heat.  Instead, DRESS IN LAYERS.  Your bottom layer should be a thin material that draws sweat away from the body, like polypropylene.  You do not want the bottom layer to be cotton because it will absorb your sweat and stay wet close to your body.  The next layer should be for insulation like fleece or wool.  The last layer should be waterproof, but breathable to allow moisture to escape.  If you start to sweat while you are exercising you can remove layers and put them back on as needed.

physical therapyWearing a hat is essential.  Heat loss from the head alone is 50% at the freezing mark.  Make sure the hat covers your ears as well to avoid frostbite.  A scarf may also be worn to assist with preventing heat loss from the neck.  The body will shunt blood flow from the hands and feet to the center of the body to keep organs warm, so wearing gloves and extra layers of socks is important.  You may want to consider using two layers of gloves as well.  This way you can use a thinner polypropylene layer closer to your skin and remove the outer layer as needed if you begin to sweat.  If the temperature falls below a comfortable level (typically below 0ºF), try placing a scarf across your face to warm the air you are breathing.

Someone who has a lot of muscle mass will tend to stay warmer with exercise in the cold because muscle generates heat and keeps the body warm.  The same physical therapyis true for someone with a layer of fat under his/her skin because fat does not allow heat to transfer out of the body as quickly.  An inexperienced or out-of-shape person may be more prone to hypothermia because they may have to take repeated rest breaks during activity.  When your body rests from activity while you are out in the cold, you have cut off your source of heat and are therefore more vulnerable to the elements.  If you are running in the cold, you may want to perform multiple laps around a shorter route that passes in front of your home.  That way, it you become tired or cold, you are not too far from home in order to rest inside.

Another important tip to remember is to stay hydrated.  You may not feel like you are sweating as much or becoming dehydrated, but you are just as likely to get dehydrated in the cold as in the heat.  Your sweating, breathing, and increased urine production in the cold may be dehydrating you without you even noticing; so make sure you stay hydrated with water or a sport drink, depending on how intensely you are exercising.

Resources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626

http://www.weather.com/activities/health/fitness/fitness101_cold.html

http://www.hss.edu/conditions_workout-tips-exercise-cold.asp

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/17/health/nutrition/17BEST.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

 

 

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exercise cold weatherJanuary has arrived and so have so many New Year’s resolutions.  Probably one of the most common is to lose weight or get fit.  Many people will start going to the gym, but a lot of folks just aren’t “gym people.”  But it’s January…and it’s cold outside…how can you exercise outside in this type of weather?  Believe it or not, exercising in the cold can be safe and comfortable whether you’re running, snow shoeing, skiing, etc.

Let’s start by addressing a few misconceptions about working out in the cold.  First off, your lungs will not be damaged by exercising in the cold.  By the time cold air reaches your lungs, it has been warmed to body temperature.  Second, asthma symptoms are not triggered by cold temperatures.  Asthma is often triggered by dry air, and cold air tends to be drier because it does not hold moisture well.  So, this problem can be remedied by using medication from a respiratory specialist for exercising in dry conditions or by wearing aphysical therapy cold balaclava or a scarf across your face so that your exhaled breath moistens the air you breathe in.  Third, you do not have to excessively bundle up in order to work out in the cold.  This point will be addressed in more depth in our next blog.

The biggest concerns during exercise in the cold are frostbite and hypothermia.  Frostbite can occur when skin is exposed to excessively cold temperatures.  The National Safety Council suggests that temperatures at 20ºF pose little danger for damage even with winds up to 30mph, but once the wind chill factor (combined temperature and wind) reaches below -20ºF danger does exist.  The following chart provides a scale for the wind chill factor in relation to exposed skin.

physical therapy

Not surprisingly the most common places that frostbite may occur are your cheeks, nose, and ears.  Be aware that it can also occur on your hands and feet.  When frostbite occurs it starts off with your skin feeling cold, followed by physical therapythe skin starting to hurt (ex. burning, aching, sharp pain), and finally a feeling of numbness.  If this occurs and the numbness persists after you have gradually warmed up inside, seek immediate medical attention.

Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature drops to excessively low levels.  It begins when the body temperature drops below 95ºF resulting in shivering and a rise in blood pressure.  Below 85ºF you will lose consciousness, and if your body temperature lowers any further you can die.  Your risk of hypothermia increases if you exercise in cold, rainy weather because water is 70 times more efficient than air at transferring heat from the body.

Our next important blog topic is how to exercise safely in the cold.  Check it out and learn more about exercising in the cold.

Resources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626

http://www.weather.com/activities/health/fitness/fitness101_cold.html

http://www.hss.edu/conditions_workout-tips-exercise-cold.asp

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/17/health/nutrition/17BEST.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

 

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We have reviewed some cardiovascular related health numbers in our last two blogs, but today we will change gears and focus on some musculoskeletal and balance related norms.

There are a multitude of joints in the body and each one has several different motions that it should be able to perform.  I am not going to bore you with explaining the motions of each joint and giving you proper measures for every joint in the body; however, we will focus on a few key areas that tend to be restricted in many people.

Physical TherapyHamstring tightness is one of the most common issues I see in patients.  Your hamstrings run along the back of your thigh spanning from your buttocks to your knee.  When this muscle group is tight, it can cause various issues including hip, knee, and often back pain.  Normal hamstring flexibility falls within the 70-90 degree range meaning that when you are lying on your back and raise your leg up as high as it can go while keeping the knee straight, your hip should be bent to a 70-90 degree angle.  A simple solution for the problem of tightness in the hamstring is to STRETCH.  There are several different methods of stretching the hamstrings and depending on other ailments like back or knee pain you may have to adjust the method you use.  If you are having trouble with finding a good stretch that does not aggravate other symptoms, contact your physical therapist for assistance.

Another common deficit that I see is weakness along the shoulder blades.  Typically the top muscle along your shoulder blade (upper trapezius) which helps to Physical Therapyhike your shoulder toward your ear is not weak.  The weakness is usually in the muscle that holds your shoulder blade downward (lower trapezius) while you are doing overhead or lifting work.  Physical therapists rate strength on a 0-5 scale.  If you have a 5/5 strength level, then you have no muscle strength deficits.  I don’t expect you to know your level of strength on this scale unless you have been formally assessed, but you can tell if you have weakness in these lower shoulder blade muscles by how difficult it is to keep your shoulder blades held downward while you try to lift a weighted object overhead.  There are several different exercises that your physical therapist can give you to help improve strength in these muscles.

A third area that commonly has deficits, especially in the older population, is balance.  One test known as the single leg stance test tends to be particularly difficult.  For this test an individual attempts to stand on one leg for as long as possible before having to place his/her foot down or grab onto something.  The test can be perform with the eyes open or closed.  The expected length of time that a person can hold this position varies based on age. If you want to find out if your ability is within the normal range, click here.  

In this particular test, participants unable to stand on one leg for at least five seconds are at increased risk for a fall resulting in injury.  There are various other balance tests that a physical therapist may perform which also correlate with a person’s level of balance and risk for falling.  If you are concerned about possible balance deficits or have a fear of falling, contact your physical therapist for an assessment.

Resources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23007137

http://www.rehabmeasures.org/Lists/RehabMeasures/DispForm.aspx?ID=1150

 

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Disclaimer:  The information in this medical library is intended for informational and educational purposes only and in no way should be taken to be the provision or practice of physical therapy, medical, or professional healthcare advice or services. The information should not be considered complete or exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes without first consulting with your physical therapist, physician or other healthcare provider. The owners of this website accept no responsibility for the misuse of information contained within this website.