Exercising During Winter: Staying Safe in Cold Weather


Ontario winters can be bitingly cold. While many of us prefer to curl up indoors or under a blanket, there’s also those braving the outdoors for their workouts. When the temperatures decline and snow has fallen, the thought of heading outside for your workout can be unappealing, but there’s no need to stay cooped up inside. Exercising outdoors in cold weather can be some of the most challenging and rewarding exercise sessions. Aside from the physical benefits, research shows that exercising outdoors can increase energy, decrease depression, lessen anxiety, and enhance mood.

There are risks associated with cold-weather workouts, just as there are risks when exercising in the heat. But with the right gear and know-how, outdoor workouts can be safe, injury-free, and enjoyable when the temperature drops.

Learn to Layer: Keeping Warm in Winter

When preparing to exercise outdoors this winter, the first step is to dress correctly for the weather. While wearing thick, heavy clothes may sound like the best idea, layers are considered ideal for exercising in cold temperatures. Even if it’s freezing (or below freezing) outside,  It is tempting to overdress to stave off the cold, but during a vigorous workout, the body will heat up even when it is freezing outside. Dressing in layers is the best solution for exercising in the cold, as they can be removed gradually when warming up and replaced if the body begins to cool off.

The layer of clothing worn closest to your body is often referred to as your “first layer,” or “base layer.” When selecting your base layers, it is important to select pieces of clothing with sweat-wicking properties. Garments with sweat wicking properties draw moisture (sweat, snow, or water) away from the body and towards the exterior layer of the fabric. The next layer, known as the “mid-layer” should act as insulation to hold in heat. Garments made of fleece or wool are considered ideal for their abilities to hold in heat. For the outer layer, or “top-layer,” select garments with waterproofing and wind-resistant qualities that also advertise breathability.

When exercising in cold weather, the core retains its warmth more effectively than our extremities do. Our ears, cheeks, nose, and hands are extremely susceptible to the cold, especially on windy days. Gloves are a necessity in cold weather. For the days below 0 degrees, gloves can be layered with mittens to provide additional warmth and help prevent frostbite. Depending on the conditions outside (snow, rain, wind, etc), different coverings for the neck, head, and face are required to protect you from the elements. If the wind chill is low, or if an activity is fast-paced, such as skiing, bring a facemask, goggles, and a neck warmer. In milder weather conditions, a thick headband or a toque can be sufficient to protect If the weather is milder, a headband or a hat that covers the ears is often enough to keep you protected from the elements.

The feet are also susceptible to the cold, especially in slushy, snowy, or wet conditions. Keep feet warm and dry with moisture-wicking or thermal socks and waterproof footwear.


Cold-Weather Risks: What to Look Out For


Exercising in the cold requires more effort. The heart is working harder, and winter conditions (think snow, ice, and slush) are more taxing on certain muscle groups than regular dry-land training. Be sensitive to your body, know the signs of overexertion, and tailor workouts accordingly. Allow for a longer warm-up so the body can acclimatize – and literally warm up – to cooler temperatures. Focus more on the quality of the workout than on the quantity.

Know your Limits

Regardless of the activity being performed, always be in the know about your level of fitness. A New Years Resolution to become more athletic does not mean that you will immediately be in good shape. Be realistic about your level of fitness and your athletic abilities. If you are out of shape and not used to regular workouts in moderate weather (think Autumn temperatures), extra caution must be exercised when working out in winter environments. For example, if you’re visiting the mountains for a snowboarding/skiing trip, do not spend 8 hours on the slopes on the first day if regular exercise isn’t a part of your daily routine. Begin your trip with measured amounts of snowboarding/skiing and gradually build on more time and intensity from there. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, always consult your physician before beginning your winter workout regiment. Our Kitchener-Waterloo urgent care clinic has physicians specializing in Sports Medicine and an on-site Physiotherapy clinic.


Frostbite occurs when the skin freezes. The hands, nose, cheeks, and ears are most vulnerable to frostbite. As the wind chill drops, the risk of frostbite increases, so be aware of the weather conditions before heading out the door. When the temperature or wind chill falls below minus 27 degrees Celsius, exposed skin can freeze in 30 minutes or less. Early warning signs of frostbite are redness, swelling, numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation. If you have already experienced frostbite on a part of your body, that area is more susceptible to future frostbite incidences.


Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops and the body loses heat faster than it can produce it.6 This can be caused by exposure to extreme cold for a long period – from getting wet in the cold or a sudden stop or slowing down of activity that prevents the body from keeping itself warm. Some warning signs of hypothermia include feeling dizzy or disoriented, extreme fatigue, and slurring of speech.

Luckily, most risks associated with exercising in the cold can be easily averted by wearing the appropriate clothing, assessing the weather conditions, and being attentive to the sensations of the body. If anything feels out of the ordinary, seek medical attention immediately.


Athletic injuries are some of the most common reasons we see patients for at our Kitchener-Waterloo Urgent Care Clinic.  Uneven ground can be treacherous under ice or snow since snow can mask obstacles like tree roots. Snow also makes it difficult to detect slippery surfaces underfoot. To avoid injuries caused by slipping and falling, such as ankle sprains, choose routes and trails that are familiar, well maintained, and well travelled. If the ground is icy or slippery, adjust the pace as necessary. It’s better to take it slow and be safe than to be fast and risk a fall.

Cold Weather Exercise: The Must-Do List

Aside from being aware of the physical risks of cold weather workouts and having the right apparel, there are many other factors to consider when it comes to safety.

Take Advantage of Daylight

Train in the daylight so you can see your surroundings and safely navigate any tricky terrain. Exercising during the winter can be challenging enough in clear conditions. Adding the element of darkness to the mix is an avoidable danger. It is also warmer when the sun is up, so take advantage of daytime workouts whenever possible. The sun is still strong in winter, and snow is a natural reflector of the sun’s rays, so don’t forget sunscreen. Without protection, the skin can still burn.

Safety in the Dark

With shorter days, we often cannot avoid exercising in the dark. Consider the following safety tips for early morning or nighttime workouts.

Wear the Appropriate Gear

Whether running, skiing, or skating, wear the appropriate safety gear, and ensure that their quality is up to standard. In the case of skating or skiing, protect the head by wearing a helmet. For runs or hikes, choose footwear with good traction (either shoes with spikes on them or removable grips for shoes) to stay steady on slippery terrain.

Monitor Fluid Intake

It’s easy to forget to hydrate because cold weather depresses thirst.7 But dehydration can happen just as easily in cooler temps as it can in the heat. Approach fluid intake during a winter workout just like you would for a summer workout, especially if you’re exercising for longer than two hours. Be well hydrated before heading out to exercise, and aim to drink a liter of fluid per hour of vigorous exercise (or eight ounces every 15 minutes).8 A good marker for dehydration is urine. When you are well hydrated, your urine will be light in color or clear. If it is a dark or caramel color, that is a strong sign that you need to increase your fluid intake.

Find a Tribe

Work out with a buddy or in a group. There is power in numbers, both for physical safety and in case of something unexpected. Workout buddies are also great motivation to get out the door on those really cold days.

Stay Safe when Solo

If you’re exercising alone, consider carrying an alarm, and choose familiar routes that are well lit and frequented often. Keep the workout close to home so that, if conditions suddenly change, home base isn’t too far away. For example, if a long run is on the schedule, consider short loops instead of a longer out-and-back route. Finally, be sure to let someone know where you’ll be and when you’ll return.

Be Visible

Dressing for the dark as important as dressing correctly for the weather. Regardless of the season, outdoor enthusiasts should always make themselves as visible as possible when working out in the dark. Select garments with reflective material to help increase your visibility. Clip a light to the back of a running belt or pants, or wear a headlamp during your workouts for extra visibility.

Create a Post-workout Protocol

Be concerned about the risks of extreme cold even after exercise. Once a workout is complete, get out of the cold as quickly as possible to keep your body temperature from dropping. Remove any wet clothing and replace with a dry layer. If it’s necessary to stay outside after a workout, bring along additional warm clothing to put on over your workout gear.

Prevent and Treat Athletic Injuries at our Kitchener-Waterloo Urgent Care Clinic

To learn more about exercise safety and injury prevention tips for your winter workouts, visit our Kitchener-Waterloo urgent care clinic to speak with one of our physicians. If you’re in the process of recovering from an athletic injury, visit our medical centre to book a consultation with a member of our Kitchener physiotherapy team, Onyx Physiotherapy.

The Lowdown on Head Lice

photolibrary_rm_photo_of_boy_scratching_headWith cold weather approaching, hats and mittens will soon become staples in everyone’s wardrobes.

Who Can Get Head Lice?

Head Lice do not discriminate, and anyone (yes, anyone) is at a risk of being infected. Children are at a much higher risk of contracting head lice than their adult counterparts.

It is a common misconception that Head Lice can fly or jump. In fact, the insects can do neither. Head Lice move entirely by crawling.

Head lice cab be spread via direct contact with an infected person’s hair.

  • Children often hug one another and literally “put their heads together.” Something as simple as whispering in someone’s ear is close enough contact for lice to crawl from one head to another.
  • You probably can’t completely prevent this—nor would many parents actually want to. Just be cautious of any child who is scratching his or her head constantly or who complains of an itchy head, and follow up with the school nurse or the child’s parents.

Head lice can also be spread through indirect contact with personal items that an infected person has used

  • Hats, scarves, helmets, and caps shouldn’t be shared. Even shared lockers or coat racks have been associated with spreading head lice.
  • Make sure your child has his or her own “personal” comb or brush.
  • Also, make sure your child uses her own hair ties, barrettes, scrunchies, and hair pins and doesn’t borrow these from other children. Be very open and honest with kids—they don’t want head lice any more than you do.
  • If your child is involved in a sport, make sure he or she has his or her own gear, and keep track of it. At the pool or gym, make sure your child has his or her own towels and other personal items.

Prevent Head Lice from Spreading

After learning about and removing the presence of Head Lice in your home, you may feel compelled to disinfect your house with insecticides. The use of insecticides is unnecessary, despite what you may have heard. Without a human host, head lice are unable to survive more than 24-48 hours after removal from a human. Lice are considered “obligate parasites,” which means that their life span is extremely limited without a human host. Save your money (and lungs) by not purchasing insecticides that are often harmful when sprayed indoors.

Keep Them Away!

After your child’s head has been treated for lice, and the nits (lice eggs found on the shaft of a hair follicle) are removed, here are some recommended steps to keep the head lice away for good:

  • All the bedding, linens, clothing, and accessories (hats, mittens, coats, scarves) in the household should be changed and washed in a hot water cycle (1400 F)
  • Once the wash cycle has completed, dry them with high heat for at least 30 minutes;
  • For items that are not machine washable, drop them off at a local dry cleaner. Make sure to inform the staff about the reason the items require dry cleaning to ensure that they can take extra precautions;
  • Thoroughly vacuum any surfaces that may have contacted anyone’s heads. This includes all chairs, couches, headboards, and carpeted areas;
  • Soak anything that has come into contact with hair in 10 percent bleach or Lysol for one hour. This includes clips, barrettes, combs, brushes, and hair ties. You can also heat them in water—as close to boiling as possible. If it’s feasible financially,

Learn More About Head Lice Prevention Today

For more information and handouts on head lice prevention and removal, come to the Onyx Urgent Care clinic located at 580 Lancaster St. West, Kitchener, ON. Our hours of operation are Monday-Friday from 6pm-11pm and Saturday’s from 4pm-9pm. For regular health tips, follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page.

STI Testing: An Important Decision



STI Testing: What you Need to Know

If you’re sexually active, you’ve probably heard this many times before- you should be using protection and getting regularly tested for STI’s. But what exactly is an STI? And more importantly, why get tested for it?

STI’s are sexually transmitted diseases, more commonly referred to as sexually transmitted infections; you’re able to contract the infection without showing any symptoms. There are several kinds of STI’s, each with different characteristics and potential symptoms, but they’ve all got one thing in common–engaging in unprotected sexual relations transmits them.

Why Test for an STI?

You should test for STI’s if you regularly engage in sexual activity with multiple partners, or when starting a new relationship. It’s important to keep yourself and your partner(s) sexually safe and aware of any potential infections. In some cases, detecting an STI at an early stage can assist in its quicker treatment, and prevent additional infections from appearing.

Common Symptoms

For women, some STI symptoms may include unusual discharge, a burning sensation during urination, discomfort or pain during sex, itching in the vagina, unusual vaginal bumps or a rash, as well as an abnormally heavy period.
Men may experience several symptoms similar to those listed above. These may include pain or burning during urination, pain or discomfort during sex, unusual bumps or a rash, and itching, as well as bleeding or an unpleasant-smelling discharge from the penis.
Keep in mind that neither of these symptoms necessarily indicates an STI. Your body may be sending you different signals to warn you of different reasons for distress; get an STI test to rule-out unlikely infections if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above.

STI Testing: Who Should Get It?

If you’re sexually active, it’s generally recommended to get screened for STI’s once a year– even if no symptoms are experienced. STI’s can be transmitted through oral, anal, and vaginal sex, which makes both men and women susceptible to contracting an infection. If you’re sexually active with multiple partners- you should watch carefully for general symptoms, and consider getting tested more often.

Are you positive you’re negative?

The only way to know if you’ve contracted an STI is to get tested; STI testing is quick and easy.  Most infections are detected through a simple blood test, swab, or even a urine sample. Don’t be afraid to let your doctor know of any questions and concerns you may have during your screening.
You can also visit us at the ONYX Urgent Care Clinic to obtain your free STI testing today; we operate after-hours on weekdays for your convenience. For our hours of operation, contact information, and additional information on STI’s- connect with us on Facebook and  follow us on Twitter.