How to stay warm and safe during winter workouts

As the temperature is dropping outside, it is important to protect yourself from the elements if you want to continue your outdoor exercise routine. Below are some tips to help you stay warm and stay safe while enjoying the outdoors!

Avoiding heat loss

Exercising produces body heat, but what you produce is not enough to keep you warm. It is important to prevent heat loss as well. The first thing you can do to minimize heat loss is to heed the words of your mother and put on a stocking cap or hood. Covering your head helps to eliminate a great percentage of heat loss. Second, you want to especially protect your extremities. Wear gloves or mittens to help shield your hands from the elements. Moisture wicking socks are helpful for keeping your feet warm and dry as well. It is important to try to avoid getting your shoes and feet wet while exercising outdoors. On especially cold or windy days, wear a scarf or face mask.

Layer up!

Dressing in layers is an important way to keep warm and comfortable. It is better to dress in several layers of lighter weight fabrics rather than one bulky layer. Start with an inner layer of a polyester blend or moisture wicking fabric to help keep the skin dry and warm. This layer can be covered with an outer layer made of cotton, fleece or even wool fabrics. Your outer layer should also be loose fitting to allow for movement while exercising or playing outdoor sports. If you exercise in the snow and sleet, a thin nylon or waterproof outer layer can be added.

Keep Exercising

Whether you have made a new year’s resolution to exercise, or you just want to keep yourself on track with your long-term exercise program, these tips can keep you warm this winter if you are exercising outside. Or if you are like me, just stay inside and hit the treadmill!

Avoid packing on pounds this holiday season

  • Make your resolution for a healthy lifestyle now. Don’t wait for New Year’s Eve to make a commitment to yourself.
  • Write down your goals — losing weight, exercising more or eating healthier. Goals that are written down are 80 percent more likely to be achieved!
  • Don’t eat unless you are hungry. You do not need to have something to eat at every holiday party. The host/hostess is not keeping track.
  • Watch those holiday drinks. Eggnog, cider and alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories.
  • Mingle with people. When we are bored, we eat more. The point of being at the party is to be social. So, step away from the buffet table and start mingling.
  • Throw a healthy party. Be different. Throw a holiday party with high protein, low calorie foods. This makes for a fun girls night!
  • Drink plenty of water. We often reach for food thinking we are hungry when we are actually thirsty.
  • Eat a snack. Before you go to a party, have a healthful snack at home. A snack high in fiber and/or protein will help you feel full so you’ll snack less.
  • Keep moving. I understand holidays can get busy, but don’t neglect your workouts. They may change form: Instead of going to the gym, you might go ice-skating or get in a snowball fight.
  • Get sleep. So many parties and presents so little time. I understand, but your body will not. Be sure to get plenty of sleep — 8 hours a day for most people.
  • Don’t deny yourself foods you love. This will only make you want them more! If you love pumpkin pie, have a piece (but just one piece, without ice cream and whipped cream).

Men: Make sure you’re getting these screenings

Most men don’t like going to the doctor.

But it’s important for men to get regular screenings to catch problems early—and help prevent them from turning into something more serious down the road.

Get your blood pressure checked every two years, and more often as you age. Have your cholesterol checked starting at age 35, or younger if you smoke, have diabetes or a family history of heart disease.

Colorectal screening to detect polyps before they can turn into cancer should begin at age 50. There are several types of screening, so talk to your doctor about which test is right for you.

Prostate cancer is detected with a blood test (PSA) or through a digital rectal exam, but there is some controversy about the benefits of regular PSA screening over a certain age, so ask your doctor.

Smokers (or former smokers) between the age of 65 and 75 should also be screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a potentially deadly condition.

Chewing tobacco: It’s not just ‘part of the game’

After the World Series champion is decided this week, one thing will be left up in the air: Will Major League Baseball ban chewing tobacco?

Lawmakers recently proposed this, saying it sets a bad example for young fans.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of kids who use chewing tobacco, although they never admit it during their visits. I generally see it with kids from more rural areas and smaller schools, but definitely in the baseball population.

The first problem with smokeless tobacco is that it’s addictive. It’s not realistic – or safe – to chew it just during sports.

The risks of chewing tobacco range from bad teeth to death. It can cause cavities, gum disease and lesions. This is because tobacco is contains coarse particles and a lot of sugar.

Smokeless tobacco can cause cancer in your esophagus, mouth, throat, cheek, gums, lips and tongue. This cancer can be life-threatening. And surgery to remove this cancer could leave you disfigured. Tobacco users also face higher risks of other types of cancer.

Clearly, chewing tobacco, like smoking cigarettes, can cause serious health problems. I should also note that it hasn’t been proved to help you quit smoking. If you try to switch one for the other, you could end up with two harmful habits.

Despite whether Major League Baseball bans tobacco, it’s important for parents – and even coaches – to talk to their kids about the dangers of tobacco. Almost all first-time tobacco use happens during high school – if not earlier.

So, talk to your children about not using tobacco. And if they are using it – or you are – talk to your doctor about effective ways to quit.

Get active to help control your diabetes

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, hopefully you’re taking your medication and watching what you eat and drink.

But are you exercising?

Exercise is an important part of a three-pronged treatment of diabetes.

Evidence clearly suggests exercise can help people with type 2 diabetes lose weight — as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, increase sensitivity to insulin and improve blood sugar control.

Benefits of Exercise

Regular exercise can reduce cardiovascular risks by reducing total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, increasing HDL cholesterol and reducing blood pressure. It can also reduce stress. You may be able to reduce, and eventually discontinue, your doses of medications. Hitting the gym beats pricking your finger!

Exercise Guidelines

It’s important to talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Having good control of blood sugars prior to starting exercise is important. Blood sugars should be monitored before, during and after exercise to allow you and your doctor to understand how your body is responding to exercise and to make adjustments to your medication. Also, if blood sugar levels are greater than 250-300 mg/dL prior to exercise, they tend to rise rather than fall and may cause a hyperglycemic episode.

You may need an exercise electrocardiogram before exercising with diabetes, depending on your age, how long you’ve had diabetes and whether other risk factors are present.

Types of exercise

Not all types of exercise are right for everyone. If you have peripheral neuropathy, you should choose swimming or bicycling, rather than an activity that may traumatize your feet.

If you have diabetic retinophaty, you should avoid heavy weight lifting, contact sports and high-impact aerobics.

Certain yoga positions, such as standing on the head, should also be avoided.

Preventing hypoglycemia

Measure your blood sugar before you exercise. Also, eat or drink digestible carbohydrates during your workout:

Blood sugar level Carbs prior to exercise Carbs during exercise
<120 15 grams 30 grams per 60 min of light to moderate exercise
120-180 0 grams 30 grams per 60 minutes of light to moderate exercise
180-250 0 grams Recheck blood sugar if exercise exceeds 30 minutes and treat based on above
>250 Exercise permitted if no ketones present in urine

How to avoid the ‘silent killer’ — high blood pressure

You get your blood pressure measured every time you go to the doctor. But unless your blood pressure is high, you might not even know what those numbers mean.

The top number (systolic) is pressure in the arteries during the heartbeat, when the heart contracts. The bottom number (diastolic) is pressure in the arteries between heartbeats, when the heart relaxes.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is created by the heart as it pumps blood through the arteries and the circulatory system.


Pre-Hypertension: 121/81 to 139/89
Stage 1: 140/90 to 159/99
Stage 2: 160/100 and higher

Hypertension causes

  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Being overweight
  • Eating too much sodium and/or saturated fat
  • Smoking or excessive drinking
  • Certain medical conditions

Hypertension symptoms

  • Severe headache
  • Visual changes
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blood in the urine

If the nurse tells you your blood pressure is “120 over 80,” that’s great. Lower is sometimes fine, too — especially for athletes.

But high blood pressure, or hypertension, is very common. About one third of African Americans have high blood pressure, as do almost a quarter of Caucasians and Hispanics. It is more common in people older than 55. Many people who have high blood pressure do not realize it.

Hypertension complications

Over time, the extra pressure can damage the arteries, making them more vulnerable to the narrowing and plaque buildup associated with atherosclerosis — the hardening of the arteries.

This leads to blockage and weakening of the walls of small blood vessels in the brain, causing them to balloon and burst. The risk of stroke is directly related to how high the blood pressure is.

Hypertensive heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death associated with high blood pressure.

Congestive heart failure, ischemic heart disease and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle) can also result from hypertension.

Some medicines for headaches, migraines, colds and weight loss can worsen high blood pressure.

Blood pressure management

Pay attention next time you get your blood pressure checked. Remember, 120 over 80 is good.

Lead a healthy lifestyle — exercise, not too much salt or saturated fats, no smoking and only moderate drinking — especially if you are overweight or over 55. The best way to deal with high blood pressure is to prevent it.

Concussions are a serious concern for student athletes

Concussions are common in high school footballConcussion is the most commonly reported injury in youth sports, at about 4 million per year in the U.S. Some of the long-term health consequences — permanent brain damage, depression and even death — have seen significant exposure in the medical literature and national news in the last few years. But despite its prevalence in youth sports and its potential long-term complications, athletes, parents and even physicians too often minimize the seriousness of concussions.

What is a concussion?

Essentially, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury that disrupts normal brain function. It is a traumatic process, but does not have to be caused by a blow to the head (e.g., whiplash). It is a temporary injury that resolves spontaneously. And, because it affects the brain function and not the structure, radiology tests (CT/MRI) cannot identify it.


Common symptoms of concussion include: headache or pressure, neck pain, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, sensitivity to light/sound, blurry vision. Common signs that may suggest someone is suffering from a concussion include: vomiting, confusion, memory loss, seizures, irritability, balance problems, and loss of consciousness.


Concussions need to be treated similarly to any other sports related injury — with rest. The brain, just like bone, muscle and tendons, must be allowed to fully recover before returning to sporting activities in order to minimize the risk of re-injury. If you sprained your ankle or pulled a hamstring, would you expect to return to full activity before your injury was healed?

New state law

Gov. Pat Quinn recently enacted the Protecting Our Student Athletes Act. This new law, in conjunction with recommendations from the Illinois High School Association, states that any student athlete suspected to have suffered a concussion must be immediately removed from play and will not be allowed to return until he/she is evaluated by a physician or a certified athletic trainer working in conjunction with a physician.

How — and why — to become a moderate exerciser

Many Americans have little or no physical activity in their daily lives. Approximately 24 percent of adults in the United States do not engage in any leisure time physical activity, while only about 49 percent perform the recommended amount of physical activity (at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more days per week). Getting regular physical activity can help keep your heart healthy, prevent some diseases, and make depression better. It also can help you stay at a healthy weight and give you more energy.

Most people should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on at least five days of the week. You can split up the 30 minutes of physical activity into 10-minute blocks. Moderate-intensity activity makes you feel like you feel when you walk fast. If moderate-intensity is too hard, you can start slower and work up to it.

There are many activities that you can do at a moderate level to stay healthy.

Aerobic exercise

Walking is an excellent aerobic activity. Cycling, rowing, stair machine climbing, and other endurance-type activities are also great. Swimming and water aerobics are excellent for people with arthritis. Low-impact activities are recommended because they are less likely to result in physical injury. Running on a street is a higher impact activity because of the stresses on the feet and legs as they strike the ground with each step.

hikingThe exercises should be enjoyable and simple to carry out to encourage a long-term commitment. It may be best to vary the exercises you do each week (such as swim on three of the days and walk on three of the days) to decrease repetitive strain to your muscles and other tissues.

There is no age specific heart rate recommendation; a specific heart rate is not necessary to achieve health benefits. If you are breathless, fatigued, and sweating, you have worked hard enough. During moderate intensity exercise, you should be able to carry on a conversation.

A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., brisk walking) is recommended on five days each week. Alternately, you can perform 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., jogging) on three days each week. This recommendation is in addition to routine, light-intensity activities of daily living (e.g., cooking, casual walking, shopping, etc.).

lifting weights

Resistance training

Resistance training can be done with weights, machines, or exercise bands. It should be performed at least twice a week with at least 48 hours of rest between sessions. Resistance training is commonly described in terms of “sets” of “repetitions.”

  • A repetition is a single completed back and forth motion of a resistance exercise, such as bending and extending the arm at the elbow while holding a weight in the hand.
  • A set is a number of repetitions done without resting.

Most experts recommend at least one set of exercises, including 8 to 12 repetitions, for each of the major muscle groups. Begin with minimal resistance (light weights, resistive bands, or even a can of food) to allow the muscles and other tissues to adapt.

It is important to use proper technique. If you belong to a health club, ask a trainer to observe your technique. Be sure to breathe normally while lifting weights. Do not hold the breath; instead, exhale with exertion. Do not perform resistance training if you are in pain or have swelling anywhere.


yogaStretching and flexibility exercises should include every major joint (hip, back, shoulder, knee, upper trunk, neck). It is best not to stretch “cold” muscles, so engage in a few minutes of low intensity aerobic exercise first. Movement into a stretch should be slow, and the stretch itself should be held for approximately 10 to 30 seconds. Do not bounce while beginning or performing a stretch.

Each exercise should be performed several times. Stretch and yoga classes are also a good way to remain flexible. The stretch should not cause pain, but only mild discomfort.

You can also work physical activity into what you already do. For example, walk to the store instead of driving, use a push instead of a riding lawnmower, or park further from entrances.

Making a plan can help you get started. Think about what activities you would enjoy and when and where you can do them. Some people like to do physical activities by themselves. Others like to do physical activity with a partner or in an organized group. Consider planning active time with family members to set a good example, or help them get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. Ask your doctor if it is safe for you to increase your physical activity.


  • Drink fluids during and after exercise. Thirst is a good indicator that more fluids are needed.
  • Do not exercise outdoors if the temperature is too hot or too cold.
  • Wear supportive, well-fitting running or walking shoes. Replace shoes when signs of deterioration develop (e.g., cracking, separation of shoe from the sole, imprint of the foot in the insole). The amount of time exercise shoes will last depends upon a number of factors, including how often and where the shoes are worn.

More information

The importance of breastfeeding

I recently read a New York Times article that really hit home with me – as a family practice/women’s health doctor, a mother and someone who travels to Haiti yearly to treat patients.

The story, “Without His Mother’s Milk, a Haitian Boy Is Lost,” describes a 5-month-old boy who was near death because his mother was giving him 7Up instead of what she thought was “bad milk.” The mother’s previous child died as a baby, and a voodoo priest told her to never breastfeed again. Fortunately, doctors, nurses and relatives were able to convince the mother to resume breastfeeding this baby, which will hopefully save his life.

If you’re not sure about breastfeeding, consider these benefits of breast milk:

Breastfeeding provides the perfect nutrition for your baby.

  • It has the perfect nutrition for your baby — just the right amounts of protein, fat, vitamins, hormones and more.
  • It will help your baby build immunities. It has antibodies cow’s milk and formula do not. Also, cow’s milk can cause diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration.
  • It has been shown to boost children’s intelligence and aid their development.
  • It will make you closer with your baby.

Avoid heat exhaustion during your summer workouts

Drink plenty of water, and exercise in the shade when possible.

Summer is a great time for exercise — whether you’re just coming out of your winter hibernation or training hard for a race. But athletes need to keep the temperature, and these tips, in mind to avoid heat exhaustion:

Stay hydrated. Drink water often. Waiting till after your workout isn’t good enough in extreme heat. Drink before you go, and take a water bottle or CamelBak with you if you won’t be passing water fountains during your run or ride.

Exercise during cooler parts of the day. The morning and the evening are great times to exercise. Or you could try to exercise in shady, breezy places, if possible.

Take it slow. Don’t overdo it, even if you are trying to look great for swimsuit season. If you haven’t run in a while, don’t go out and try to run 5 miles on a 90 degree day.

Take breaks frequently. Runners, there is no shame in slowing to a walk sometimes. And it’s OK to sit on that park bench for a few minutes. And while you’re there — you guessed it — drink some water.

Wear the right clothing. Light-colored, breathable workout clothes are best.

Use plenty of sunblock. Sunburns are not only harmful and painful – they’re hot, too.