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Winter Running Injury Prevention

When Is it Too Cold to Run Outside? A Doctor Weighs In

Are you ready to brave the Winter cold for a run, or is it better to hit the treadmill indoors? Temperature preference aside, we wanted to get some medically sound advice, so we consulted Dr. Armin Tehrany, MD, top New York City orthopedic surgeon and founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care.

Dr. Tehrany gave us some indicators and parameters for running in the cold — and it turns out that if you're equipped, you can run in some seriously low temps, but there are limits. Here's the best way to tell if you're keeping your body safe and injury-free.

When Is It Too Cold to Run Outside?

"When the drawbacks of outside cold weather outweigh the benefits of a workout," said Dr. Tehrany. Do the pros outweigh the cons? If it's so cold you're in pain or injuring yourself, that's undoing anything you could gain by getting in some exercise outside. However, if you've got layers on and you haven't been experiencing pain, you can still head outside for a run.

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Dr. Tehrany noted that -17ºF is the limit. This is where the cold becomes a potential threat to your health; at that temperature, you're at risk for frostbite, and your risk of joint pain is also higher. Once you've hit that temperature, it's best to opt for an indoor workout. Evaluate conditions and comfort, and pay close attention to the sensation in your joints.

What Are Some Injury Indicators?

"The limit should include sharp pain in the joint, or a feeling of instability," he said. If you're running outside in freezing temps and start to feel "off" or wobbly in your joints — particularly your knees — bring it inside. "These symptoms should signal the need for a medical consultation."

How Can You Prevent Joint Injury or Pain in Winter Weather?

Aside from paying attention to your body when you're outside running, you should take care of your joints before and after a run. Layer up and keep yourself warm! It's also a good idea to keep moving, whether that's inside or outdoors. "I would recommend a heating pad, wearing layers, warm clothing, and lots of walking to lubricate the joints and keep them in motion," said Dr. Tehrany.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Maria del Rio
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