Protect your head, hands, feet and ears

When it's cold, blood flow is concentrated on your body's core, leaving your head, hands and feet vulnerable to frostbite. Try wearing a thin pair of glove liners made of a wicking material (like polypropylene) under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens lined with wool or fleece. Put on the mittens or gloves before your hands become cold and then remove the outer pair if your hands begin to sweat.

Considering buying exercise shoes a half-size or one size larger than usual to allow for thick thermal socks or an extra pair of regular socks. And don't forget a hat to protect your head or headband to protect your ears. If it's very cold, consider wearing a scarf or ski mask to cover your face.

Don't forget safety gear — and sunscreen

If it's dark when you exercise outside, wear reflective clothing. To stay steady on your feet, choose footwear with enough traction to prevent falls, especially if it's icy or snowy. Wear a helmet while skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. Consider using chemical heat packs to warm up your hands or feet, especially if you have a tendency to have cold fingers and toes or if you have a condition such as Raynaud's disease.

It's as easy to get sunburned in winter as in summer — even more so if you're exercising in the snow or at high altitudes. Wear a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and a lip balm that contains sunscreen as well. And protect your eyes from snow and ice glare with dark glasses or goggles.

Drink plenty of fluids

You need to stay well hydrated when exercising in cold weather just as you do when exercising in warm weather. Drink water or sports drinks before, during and after your workout, even if you're not really thirsty. You can become just as dehydrated in the cold as in the heat from sweating, breathing, the drying power of the winter wind, and increased urine production, but it may be harder to notice during cold weather.

Putting it all together for cold-weather safety

These tips can help you safely — and enjoyably — exercise when the weather turns chilly. But as you exercise during cold weather, continually monitor how your body feels to help prevent cold-weather injuries, such as frostbite. Consider shortening your outdoor workout or skipping it altogether during weather extremes, and know when to head home and warm up. Also, be sure to let someone know your exercise route and your expected return time, in case something does go wrong.

Feb. 05, 2014 See more In-depth