One of the best ways to stay healthy in the winter is to stay active. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of many a harsh winter, or you’re a buying your first winter jacket, there are several things that you should consider before leaping head first into whatever it is you plan to do in these winter months.

  1. Wear a helmet. This is possibly the most important piece of headwear that will ever rest upon your cranium. A helmet may help protect the brain from injuries, like concussions. Concussions are an epidemic. An estimated 1.6 million to 3.8 million people each year receive a concussion. Concussions may have lasting effects, including extensive neurological trauma. To sum things it may not be a fashion statement, but it just might save your life.
  2. Cover up. Baby it’s cold outside…That means you have to think about what you wear. Dressing appropriately could be the difference between 10 fingers and 9. But, frostbite isn’t the only thing you have to worry about. If you lower your body temperature, guess what — you have hypothermia. Layering is highly recommended for the simple reason that if you get warmer, you can adjust by taking off, or putting on a layer.
  3. Protect your skin. Clothing is not the only thing you want to use to cover up. Everyone who has ever lived in Vermont knows that for 8 months out of the year there is not much direct sunlight. But, during the winter months you are more susceptible to sun-related ailments, such as skin cancer since the snow can reflect ultraviolet light that is one of the biggest contributors. Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the US, and Vermont has the highest rate of melanoma in the country. Don’t put away the sunscreen just yet.
  4. See better with sunglasses. You’re on top of a mountain on a sunny day. The run starts out great, except for one thing: You start to get out of control, and you realize that you can’t see. You’ve been temporarily blinded by the light from the sun reflecting off the snow. It can take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to bright light. All that time puts you and/or others in harm’s way. So, put on some sunglasses so your eyes don’t have to adjust to as much light.
  5. Make sure your equipment fits. A helmet will not help if its hanging off, and snow pants will not keep you warm if they’re around your knees. It’s in the same sense that a life jacket can do more harm than good if it’s too big. Hockey skates are the same way. If they are laced the wrong way you could break your ankles. This can also mean attaching articles of clothing or implements to yourself. Make sure the fit is right.
  6. Drink up. Though it is cold outside, your body still needs that oh so important thing that does just little bit more than keep us alive….Water. And since it’s not blistering hot and you’re not sweating like a polar bear you don’t think that you’re losing water. You may not feel thirsty, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to drink. Most of the time once you are thirsty it’s too late — you’re dehydrated. Some simple ways to tell if you’re dehydrated are as simple as seeing if you’re not urinating regularly and when you do go to the bathroom if you’re urine is a dark yellow then you should probably hydrate more The best thing to do is to hydrate before an activity when it’s not only easier to do so, but more beneficial than only drinking during the activity itself. Be sure to drink something warm to not only hydrate you, but also keep you warm in the cold conditions.

Cole Picard, a student at Essex High School, is a marketing and communications intern at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

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