Orthopedic Associates' Blog


Orthopedic Associates' Blog

Why do my muscles get stiff in the winter?
Why do my muscles get stiff in the winter?

By: Dr. R. Randal Aaranson

Have you noticed it’s harder to warm up your muscles when you’re cold? Even if you’re not outside, just the chill of the winter weather makes your muscles feel stiff. If the early morning gym routine feels a little harder when the temperature is below 50 degrees, you’re right- it is harder!

Our muscles lose heat and contract in colder weather as a matter of self-preservation. (NCBI) Our brains signal our body to tighten our muscles and joints to preserve body heat and energy. The same exercises and even everyday movements that seem easy in the summer are physiologically harder to complete in the winter. Our muscles have to work harder than normal because of winter stiffness which can increase muscle soreness.

How to prevent muscle soreness in the winter

The key to loosening up stiff muscles is extending your warm-up session. It’s worth the extra five or ten minutes to get your blood flowing to help prevent injuries and overuse exercising during the winter. Starting with a good cardio exercise, like jogging, burpees, jumping jacks, or pushups to get your blood flowing and raise your body temperature. If you’re wanting to have fun playing an outdoor winter sport, like hockey or snowboarding, there are some great stretches you can use before skiing or ice skating.

Add extra stretches to your warm-up routine to increase blood and oxygen flow to your joints. Don’t overextend your joints while stretching; remember, your body isn’t a machine. Slow down the pace of your stretching to allow your joints to gradually extend.

It’s also important to use your cool down routine to target areas that were a bit harder to warm up before your exercise. Again, go slowly with your stretching because your body will naturally contract back to self-preservation mode as you go through the cold of winter. Be kind to your muscles and they’ll be kind to you, too.

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