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Q&A: When is it Too Cold to Run Outside?


Q: I enjoy running outside year round. When is it too cold to run outside? 

A: The wind chill factor plays the greatest role in determining if it’s too cold to train outside. Wind can penetrate clothes and dissipate the heat insulation your body creates. The greater the wind speed, the quicker heat is lost.

If the wind chill factor is -20˚F or below, it’s not safe. Use this chart from the National Weather Service to determine wind chill and the risk of frostbite.

If the temperature is below 25˚F, take steps to protect yourself. Keep as much skin as possible covered and layer with wind and water resistant clothing to keep your body heat insulated. Choose a wicking material for your base layer to keep your skin dry. People with medical conditions like asthma, heart disease, or Raynaud’s disease may be more susceptible to the cold, so check with your physician before exercising in extreme conditions.

You should also protect your feet by wearing weather appropriate shoes that provide traction in rain, ice, and snow.

Anna Hartmann is the director of performance physical therapy at Athletes' Performance in Phoenix, Ariz.

Tags: Health, Running, Gear, Outdoor Recreation