Make the most of cold-weather activities during COVID-19

By Elizabeth Saft, D.O.

Primary Care physician

Pardee Family Medicine Associates (Etowah)

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are planning to spend more time outdoors this winter. Here are some ways to stay safer and make the most of your time outside.

Why choose outdoor activities during COVID-19?

Outdoor settings have better ventilation that disperses respiratory droplets released when we breathe, talk, laugh, cough or sneeze.

Gathering indoors with people who live outside your household is a high-risk activity during the pandemic. Meeting in smaller, socially distanced gatherings outdoors can be a lower-risk way to see family and friends.

Remember, it’s still essential to practice social distancing, wash your hands often and wear a mask when you’re around people who don’t live in your home.

Fun outdoor activities in the winter

When it’s cold outside, cardiovascular activities are one of the best ways to warm you up – and they’re great for your overall health. Ask a friend or family member to meet you for a walk, jog, bicycle ride or hike instead of meeting indoors. If you’re planning to do a more strenuous workout, like a long run, be sure to warm up first so you don’t strain your muscles. Try dynamic bodyweight exercises like arm circles, lunges and squats.

Instead of hosting a meal indoors, build a campfire and roast s’mores or hot dogs and sip coffee, tea or hot chocolate. If you can’t build a fire, consider investing in an outdoor heater and offer guests their own blankets. Just be sure to follow all safety instructions that come with the heater to avoid a fire hazard.

If you have kids, plan active, socially distanced activities like kickball, frisbee, jump rope, hopscotch, hula hooping, a scavenger hunt or freeze dancing (where everyone dances and then freezes when the music stops). On a snow day, go sledding or build a snowman.

Dress for cold weather

Wearing the right clothes can help keep you warm and safe. Your best bet is to dress in layers. First, wear a thin, moisture-wicking base layer in a fabric like polyester or nylon – this layer keeps your body dry. Your middle layer should be insulating, so choose a heavyweight fleece or a puffy jacket. Finally, top your outfit with a waterproof, wind-resistant outer layer to protect you from the elements. If you get hot, you can remove layers as needed.

It gets dark earlier in the winter, so stay visible with bright colors and reflective gear whenever you spend time outdoors.

Protect your hands with gloves or mittens and ears with a hat or earmuffs. For your socks, choose a moisture-wicking material like wool or a synthetic fiber. If your shoes have mesh air vents, wear extra-thick socks to keep your feet warm.

If cold, dry air makes breathing uncomfortable, consider wearing a bandana, scarf or balaclava over your mouth to protect your airways.

Stay safe no matter the setting

Remember, no matter what outdoor activity you choose, you still need to social distance, wear a mask (when you can’t maintain a six-foot distance) and wash your hands regularly. If you have questions about whether certain outdoor activities are safe for you, talk to your primary care provider. To find a provider near you, visit

Dr. Saft is a board-certified primary care and family medicine physician at Pardee Family Medicine Associates (Etowah).

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