What to wear for hot and cold weather workouts

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Lather – Layer – Lighten

Whether it’s the hot southern sun or the cold northern wind, it’s important to outfit yourself with the right layers for hot and cold weather workouts.

In cold weather…

Lather & Layer

To stay safe while being active in cold weather the key is to stay both warm and dry – from the elements, but also from sweat. Sweat cools your skin, which is a great asset in the hot summer months, but not in cooler temps. Proper layering is key. Wear several layers of loose-fitting clothing, which will trap warm air between them.1 Tight-fitting clothes can keep your blood from freely flowing and can lead to loss of body heat.1 Check both the temperature and windchill before heading out. The windchill can make it feel colder than the temperature may indicate.

  • Lather: Though it may seem counterintuitive, you need to lather sunscreen on exposed skin in the winter months. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can penetrate the skin, regardless of cloud cover or how cold it feels on your skin.. UV rays can also lead to skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection (aka: “broad spectrum”), and SPF 30 or higher. Apply it at least 15 minutes before going out and reapply at least every two hours.2. Also, don’t forget sunglasses and be sure they have 100% UV protection from all UV light. UV rays can damage your eyes and lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye conditions that can harm your vision.3
  • Inner layer: The layer closest to your skin should be moisture wicking to draw sweat away from your skin. It can be polyester, polypropylene, or lightweight wool. Avoid cotton, including your undergarments, because it absorbs moisture and can keep it next to your skin – making you cold.
  • Middle layer(s): This layer should insulate and trap air close to your body to keep in the heat. You may need one or two middle layers depending on the conditions and your activity. These layers can be wool, polyester fleece, microfiber insulation, or down.4,5 If you use two layers, the first should be a loose weave to allow for maximum air trapping. The second layer can be a tighter weave to reduce the effect of wind-chill and give you more insulation.5
  • Outer layer: This layer should be a lightweight and versatile shell jacket. It needs to repel wind, rain, and snow. Try to choose a fabric that is both breathable and rain- and wind-proof. If the outer layer is not breathable, sweat can build up and be trapped inside, not allowing for proper evaporation – making you cold. Consider a polyester blend, nylon, Gore-Tex or Windstopper.6 Try to avoid rubber or plastic materials that allow moisture to build.  Look for underarm zippers, venting pockets, and backflaps that allow for ventilation.6 This outer layer can be removed when it’s not rainy, snowy, or very windy.  To avaoid losing body heat, don’t forget:
    • A hat that covers your ears
    • A scarf or gaiter to warm the neck and can be used to cover your mouth to warm the air
    • A pair of gloves or mittens (mittens keep your fingers together and will be warmer, but glove may make tasks using your fingers easier)
    • A pair of wool/polypropylene-blend socks (that fit in your shoes without cramping your feet).7

In hot weather…

Lather & Lighten

Exercising in warm weather increases your core body temperature.8 Your body needs to send oxygenated blood to both your heart to keep it moving and your skin to cool it down, which can put more stress on your body during hot weather activity.9 So, give yourself permission to slow down and stay safe. You will likely want to expose more skin with fewer clothes to keep cool during hot weather activity, so be sure to ~

  • Lather: Sunburn can decrease your body’s ability to cool itself. Be sure to lather on sunscreen to protect from sunburn, as well as skin cancer, and premature aging of the skin. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection, and SPF 30 or higher. Apply it at least 15 minutes before going out and reapply at least every two hours.2 You can also buy clothing made to block out the harmful rays of the sun, labeled with a sun protection factor (SPF) label.10 Don’t forget 100% UV protective sunglasses to protect your vision.
  • Lighten (color and clothes):
    • Color: Choose light-colored clothing for hot weather activity, since darker colors will absorb more heat and make you hotter.
    • Clothing: Choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothes. You want air to flow over as much of your skin as possible11 to help sweat evaporate and cool your body. Choose quick-drying, sweat-wicking fabrics, such as polyester, polypropylene,10 nylon, or nylon-blend.12 You can look for terms like moisture-wicking, Dri-fit, Coolmax, or Supplex.10 It might come as a surprise, but wool, particularly merino wool because of its thinner fibers,12 is also a good choice to keep you cool, dry, and naturally odor-free.10 Avoid cotton, silk, and linen, which absorbs moisture, and keep the heat close to your body9,10,12 Don’t forget about socks and a hat. Socks and hats come in quick-drying fabrics that wick sweat. Socks with a polyester blend are a good choice.10 Choose a hat with a wide brim all the way around or a “sun-skirt” to provide shade for your face, neck, and ears.13 The head is a large body surface for cooling and a hat helps to shade it and keep it cool.9

To stay safe while being active in hot weather, it’s important to pay attention to both the temperature and the humidity. In drier climates, your sweat dries more quickly to cool your skin, but you may not recognize how much sweat you’re losing, since your shirt might not be soaked through, so be sure to hydrate.9 In hot and humid climates, it’s harder for your body to keep cool because sweat doesn’t evaporate from your skin as quickly as in dryer air.8 If you’re soaked in sweat, treat that as a reminder that your body can’t cool itself and that the stress on your body is greater because of the humidity – be careful.9 Check your weather (temperature and humidity) before heading out in the heat, and consider:

  • Going either earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler
  • Moving your workout to a shadier route
  • Slowing down – Give yourself permission to back off a bit when you’re exercising in the heat to stay safe.
  • Mixing up your outdoor walking or running routine with water activities (swimming or water aerobics) or indoor exercise.9

Whatever your current climate, hot and cold weather workouts are possible by properly outfitting yourself and taking some of the the precautions above. Get moving in any climate with one of our step challenge programs. Have questions about our Walk Across Texas programs? Check out our FAQs here.


  1. National Institute on Aging. Safety tips for exercising outdoors for older adults. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/safety-tips-exercising-outdoors-older-adults#cold. Published April 2, 2022. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Why you need sun protection in the Winter. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/shade-clothing-sunscreen/cold-weather. Published May 25, 2021. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  3. Boyd K. Tips for choosing the best sunglasses. American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/glasses-contacts/sunglasses-3. Published September 5, 2021. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indoor safety | winter weather. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/duringstorm/indoorsafety.html. Published December 22, 2022. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  5. University Health Network. Dressing for Outdoor Exercise in Cold Weather | Cardiac College. https://www.healtheuniversity.ca/EN/CardiacCollege/Active/Exercise_And_Cold_Weather/Pages/dressing-for-outdoor-in-cold-weather.aspx. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  6. National Ski Patrol. Dressing for winter sports. https://www.nsp.org/NSPMember/Safety/Skiing_Snowboarding_Tips/NSPMember/Safety/Dressing_for_Winter_Sports.aspx. Published 2019. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  7. Bumgardner W. How you should properly dress to walk in Cold Weather. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-dress-for-cold-weather-walking-3435229. Published August 15, 2021. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  8. Ellis E. Exercise safely in hot weather. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/fitness/physical-activity/exercise-nutrition/exercise-safely-in-hot-weather. Published June 28, 2022. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  9. Lohmeyer S. How to stay safe when you work out in the heat. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/07/19/1016989389/how-to-heat-proof-your-summer-workout. Published July 19, 2021. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  10. Vorvick LJ. Exercise clothing and shoes: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000817.htm. Published August 13, 2020. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  11. Palca J. Summer science: Clothes keep you cool, more or less. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2012/07/25/157302810/summer-science-clothes-keep-you-cool-more-or-less. Published July 25, 2012. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  12. com. What is moisture wicking and how does it work? Nike.com. https://www.nike.com/a/what-is-moisture-wicking. Published July 27, 2022. Accessed January 6, 2023.
  13. Crossman A. 5 hot weather running gear tips. ACTIVE.com. https://www.active.com/running/articles/5-hot-weather-running-gear-tips. Published July 27, 2017. Accessed January 9, 2023.