No excuses: How to layer up for walking in cold weather

Image: iStock
Published: October, 2015

"It's too cold." "It's too hot." "It's raining." Weather-related excuses are some of the most common reasons that walkers don't walk. But with the right clothing and preparation, almost any type of weather can be walking weather.

A key to staying warm when you're walking in cold temperatures is to stay dry — and that's exactly what layering helps you do. By removing layers as you warm up, you'll avoid excessive sweating, which can cause you to become chilled, especially later in your walk. Then you can replace layers as you cool down to remain warm.

Try this three-step layering system on your next walk. With the right clothing, you might even enjoy winter walking!

First layer: Start with a light synthetic fabric, such as Cool-Max or polypropylene, closest to your skin. It will pull sweat away from your skin and allow it to dry quickly.

Second layer: This is your insulation. Look for a fleece, sweater, or sweatshirt made of a synthetic fabric like Polartec, or a wool blend that provides warmth while wicking away moisture. (Avoid cotton, because it stays wet.) Depending on the temperature, you may want insulating bottoms, too. You can also select different thickness levels for more or less insulation, or double up on this layer if it's really cold.

Third layer: This one protects you from wind, rain, or snow. A waterproof or water-resistant (depending on where you live) breathable jacket and pants, such as those made of Gore-Tex, will keep you warm and dry. Look for styles with vents that you can easily open and close to stay comfortable. Velcro or drawstrings at your waist and wrists will also prevent cold air from sneaking in.

When choosing layers, dress for a temperature that's about 10 degrees higher than the day's forecast, because you'll be generating your own heat as you get moving. And don't forget to cover your ears, hands, and head.

To learn more about how to get the most out of your walks, buy Walking for Health, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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