We do a lot of walking and it doesn’t take us turning on the weather channel to know that winter has finally arrived. Although we may not be up to our knees in snow as some of you and as we were when we lived in the North, we can see the more subtle changes where we live-leaves falling, a cold drizzle a lot of the time, and an even colder chill of the wind from the north. That means, as a person who has diabetes, we must take some extra steps and precautions in order to continue our walking and not get damp feet or body chills while walking.
Generally speaking, walking outdoors is fine for people with diabetes at temperatures as low as freezing, but it’s best to check with your doctor. Additional conditions such as heart disease and lung disease can be a significant factor. If it gets too cold for you, we suggest walking in the mall.
Otherwise just because it’s cold, rainy, or lightly snowing (no one should be walking outside in heavy snow or a blizzard), just dress properly and you shouldn’t have to fear the cold.
There are lots of body-friendly fabrics nowadays to help you keep warm and dry. First your under-clothing-a most important layer that we often don’t think about. You don’t have to run out and buy thermal underwear that you’d wear skiing, but if you already have it and it’s really cold outside, dig it out. Otherwise, wear soft, comfortable underclothes made of synthetic blends that won’t retain moisture and which actually transport sweat away from the skin.
On top of this, wear a mock turtleneck shirt with a zipper up front that can act like a body thermostat. Pulled up, it will help you retain body heat; down, it will help you to cool off. Male or female, wear the shirt with pants made of a polyester/Lycra blend which will again siphon sweat away from the body.
On the outside, depending on the air temperature, maybe nothing. Or when temperatures dip, a comfortable wind-and-water resistant jacket with a roll-up hood that can cover the head (you lose body heat in cold weather when your head’s left uncovered). The jacket can be lined with insulated lining for colder weather. The lining of mine zips in or out, depending on my needs.
On my feet, I wear hiker socks that I buy at a sporting goods store, made of a high-grade wool that absorbs moisture from my feet and allows it to evaporate. Over this I wear my Reeboks that have a double air chamber that are really kind to my feet. My walking shoes also have proper tread to handle the occasional ice patch that we get here in Texas in early morning and late evening.
In really cold weather I need more protection for my head so I dig out my ready supply of cold weather hats that have served me well in ski country around the world. I also wear gloves that are water-resistant and lined for extra warmth. No frostbite for me.
I add a fanny-pack to all of this to carry my ID, keys, and a pouch of carbo snacks to ward off low blood sugars. Strapped to that is my water bottle and I’m ready to start walking. Just one word of caution, since it gets dark so early in the winter, make sure your path is well lighted and that if you are going anyplace where there are cars, wear clothing that will show up well in the dusk or dark. Let someone know that you’re going walking, the route that you’re taking, and about when you’ll return. If you’re much overdue, tell them to come looking for you.
Take care with your winter walking. If you have concerns about your particular needs, don’t hesitate to discuss the subject with your health-care team.