Q. Though this has been a mild winter so far, I haven't been walking outside. I wonder if I should try walking in the shopping malls till spring. What do you think?
A. Yes, I certainly do recommend mall walking in the winter. It is an excellent and safe alternative to walking on snow and ice right now, especially for people with any health problems.
However, for seniors who are in good shape and in excellent health, there are some advantages to walking outside in the snow. It is very pretty and quite invigorating.
Be aware that there are still some precautions to take before embarking on winter exercise out of doors...
A cautionary note for winter hiking...
- Dress warmly and dress for the weather -use common sense.
- Check the outside thermometer and consider the wind chill factor when you go out for a winter hike. You can always take off your hat or your mittens (better than gloves to keep your fingers warm) to cool off temporarily if you get too hot walking. Dress in layers that you can loosen or remove if the day warms up. Removing some pieces of clothing also prevents you from perspiring. (If your clothing gets wet you feel the cold much more.)
- Wear firm boots with a good tread and carry a walking stick to help prevent a fall on slippery slopes.
- Carry food (trail mix, fruit, or other snack) and water, as you can get dehydrated easily and not realize it at the time. Dehydration can cause fatigue and, if this happens, it's a good idea to quit before getting even more tired.
- Hike with a partner. Let someone know where you are going, especially if you go out alone. If you hike in one of the Cleveland Metroparks where there is a nature center, check with the personnel there as to the condition of the trails. Notify them that you are hiking and where you are going.
- Try walking with a group such as the Cleveland Hiking Club or other organization with a leader who is responsible for getting you back to your starting point.
- Take a map with you so you know where you are going and how to return. Trails you are familiar with in other seasons tend to look different in the winter.
- Hike by time, not miles ... and hike in midday, if possible. It gets dark very early in the winter and usually becomes much colder. To avoid being out on a trail after sunset, set yourself a time limit and stick with it.
Don't overdo. Accidents happen when you don't expect them. If you experience any problems such as fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle cramps or other medical concerns, stop immediately and rest before returning to your car to summon immediate help.
Enjoy winter walking!
Patience Cameron Hoskins is the author of Cleveland on Foot and Beyond Cleveland on Foot both published by Gray & Co. Click on the book covers on the right hand side of the screen for more information (including purchase options) on both books.
Don't miss the latest edition of Beyond Cleveland on Foot with 58 more hikes and walks.
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