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There is a very good chance that the cold temps and snow will return soon! Winter in NEPA can be the perfect opportunity to try something new. For example, for those who enjoy running or walking you can continue to do so in the winter, with a few adjustments. Equipment, such as treaded sneakers, allows you to run or walk in the snow. Snow shoes are a great way to hike and walk in the snow while cross country skiing simulates running in the snow. But, in the last few years, another outdoor activity has become a winter sport; mountain biking in the snow has become popular.

Many mountain biking enthusiasts in NEPA enjoy 7-8 months of trail riding at our beautiful state parks. Now, with a few modifications, mountain bikers can continue year round. In fact, the adventure in the snow may be an exciting new experience. If winter biking is not your thing, maybe winter walking, running, snow shoeing or cross-country skiing will suit you better.   

The physical and psychological benefits of outdoor activities are many: each season brings its own unique beauty, and winter is no different. Most will not have to abandon outdoor activities, but some adjustments in equipment, clothing, and food are necessary for each season and the temperature changes that it brings.

Mountain Biking in the Snow

While recommended, it is not necessary to purchase a bike specifically for mountain biking in the snow. With a few simple modifications and adjustments, you can prepare a regular mountain bike for winter use.

Modify The Bike Shocks

In addition to rocks and stumps, winter biking offers the challenges of snow banks and ice chunks. The air pressure in your shock system will be affected by temperature. Additional air pressure will be required to improve shock absorption and in extreme cases, using less viscous oil will be required.

Modify The Tires

Pressure - lower the air pressure in the tires 5-10 psi lower than normally used in the summer to improve traction.

Treads – Just as with winter car tires, a larger tire with more volume and large, widely space knobs will improve traction. Some special winter tires offer studs for improved performance on the ice.


Disc Brakes – that are self-cleaning and mounted away from the snow are best for winter biking. However, brakes should be examined and cleaned intermittently for snow and ice accumulation.


Platform Pedals – allow the rider to quickly plant the foot for balance when sliding.


It is important to layer clothing. Use DryTech or UnderArmor type materials (headgear, gloves, shirts and pants) to allow sweat to breath away from the skin to the next layer of clothing. Use a facemask to cover your mouth and nose to prevent frost bite and warm air before it enters the lungs. Chemical hand and toe warmers are great. Try winter running or walking shoes as described below.

Walking or Running in the Snow

There are running shoes specifically designed for use in wet, cold and sloppy winter conditions. These “winterized” running shoes, which can also be used for walking, offer waterproofing, sealed seams, gaiter collars to keep out snow and slop, slip resistant fabric, anti-roll stability features, anti-microbal material and aggressive tread patterns for traction on slippery surfaces. Some shoe recommendations for both winter walkers and runners include:

. Some shoe recommendations for winter runners and walkers from The Runner’s World Magazine include:

  • Salomon Sense Ride 3 GTX: $160.00
  • Inov-8 TerraUltra G 270: $160.00
  • Saucony Peregrine ICE+: $149.95
  • Merrell Nova 2/Antora 2: $109.99
  • Altra King MT 2: $99.81

For winter walkers, walking or trekking poles will improve balance and safety when briskly walking in winter conditions. I am a strong proponent of using these tools. They are lightweight, adjustable, and collapsible. Some examples are: Black DiamondR Trail Explorer 3 Trekking Poles - $59.99 andMountainsmithR FX Lite Trekking Poles - $35.09. For an inexpensive alternative, an old pair of ski poles will work just fine.

Snow Shoeing and Cross-Country Skiing

These activities should also be considered as a viable option for the winter walker and runner. These are great cross-training alternatives with tremendous aerobic benefits.

Snowshoes work by distributing your weight over a larger surface area so your foot does not sink completely into the snow. Commonly used by fur traders, trappers and forest rangers, snow shoeing has become very popular among many outdoor exercise enthusiasts. It is relatively safe and inexpensive. Some snowshoes include the Tubbs Flex TRK - $169. (REI) and Redfeather Hike - $149.00 (Cabelas).Boots and poles are also required, but ski or trekking poles along with hiking boots or winter running shoes can be used.

Cross country skiing has also gained tremendous popularity among winter outdoor exercise enthusiasts. It is a cross between running and skiing in which the participant propels through a snow-covered trail by pushing and gliding with a running or fast-walking motion. Some examples of equipment packages that include boots, pole, bindings and skis are Alpina Sports Tour – no wax for $229.00 and Rossignol XT from LL Bean at $224.00.

Many of the area’s state parks, such as Lackawanna and Promised Land, offer wonderful trails for winter walking, hiking, running, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and biking.

For the more casual walker in need of protection from the snow and ice, it may be treacherous just to walk the dog or go to the bank, post-office or grocery store. Consider traction devices that easily slip on and off your shoes or boots such as StabilicersR (cleats-type device) or YaktraxR (chain-type device).  

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” every Monday.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles: visit our healthcare forum

We all know people who complain that they are always cold. Living in NEPA, winter or damp cold fall and spring can make these poor people miserable 6 or more months a year! While it may never feel like Costa Rica, there are options to make our climate more tolerable for those suffering from the cold. Confession: Last year I broke down and bought rechargeable electric ski boot heaters…I LOVE THEM!

Use the Dyer to Warm up Your Clothes

While some environmentally conscious folks will think this is a waste of energy, those who suffer from constant chill will feel otherwise. Taking the chill out of your clothes first thing in the morning can set the pace for a nice toasty day. Run them through a short spin just before you get dressed. Your body is usually warmest in the morning, so why not try to keep up the toasty vibe!

Get Enough Calories

Cold temps require more energy demand from your body so you require more fuel to burn to maintain your core body temperature. One hot meal a day with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed foods will serve you well.

Wear Socks to Bed

Ok, not very sexy, but cold feet don’t cut it either! Wearing socks in bed can help heat your whole body and warm feet can signal your brain that it’s time to go to sleep. If that is the bedtime message you want to send but you don’t want to wear socks then consider wearing warm, fuzzy slippers for  a while before bed.

Wear Warm Pajamas

Flannel is not only cozy, but it still breathes so that you won’t get too hot or damp from sweat. Silk is a good second choice to keep you warm, but it might not breathe as well. If you’re really cold, try long underwear and a hat, or “nightcap.”

Iron and B12

Iron and B12 are essential to prevent anemia. If you have anemia, you may not have enough red blood cells to take oxygen around your body and that will make you feel chilly. People with poor diets or malabsorption problems may not get enough B12. Pregnant women sometimes have lower levels of iron, because their bodies use more than usual. Sources of B12: chicken, eggs, or fish. Sources of Iron: poultry, pork, seafood, chickpeas, and green leafy vegetables.

Layer Up

Lay it on! Several light layers keep you warmer than a single heavy one. Start with something thin, like thermal underwear that wicks away moisture then add insulation like a wool sweater or down jacket if outdoors. Use a windbreaker as an additional  outer shell. Three layers seem to be a sweet spot, but you can adjust. Not warm enough? Add another layer if your too hot, take a layer off.

Also, for those who do not tolerate the cold but love to be outdoors (skiing, ice skating, walking etc) consider some of the new technology. Chemical or rechargeable electric hand and foot warmers, electric heated jackets, vests or shells are also an option.

Electric Blanket/Mattress Pad

Electric blankets are OK but can waste heat as heat rises to the ceiling. A heated mattress pad may be a better option. It fits snugly like a sheet and it stays in place.

Don’t Hold Back on the Spices

Do you break a little sweat when you eat too many jalapenos? Spicy food literally warms up your body and maybe something to consider for extra warmth, unless you have stomach problems like ulcers. In fact, a spicy diet can be good for you. Just don’t overdo it!  

Plug In Space Heaters

Space heaters have come a long way to warm smaller areas. Pick a UL-approved unit that fits your space and purpose. A “convection” type with a fan might be best to heat a whole room. A “radiant” model is better to heat a specific spot. Put it on a level surface away from moving people. Keep pets and children away. Plug electric heaters directly into the wall, and look for a safety switch that turns it off when it’s knocked  over.

Move Your Body

Go for a walk or jog. If it’s too cold outside, hit the gym, or just do some jumping jacks, pushups, or other exercises indoors. Not only will it warm you up, it helps build and keep your muscles strong, which also burn calories and creates body heat. If you’re healthy enough for it, vigorous exercise might even raise your core body  temperature.

Make Time to Adjust

It can take 2 weeks to adjust to a cold, new environment and may take longer if you are older or have very little body fat. Some medications, like blood thinners or those for allergies or asthma can add to the problem. People who spend lots of time outside often find it easier to get used to sudden changes in temperature

Wear the Proper Footwear

Just because your footwear is insulated doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll keep you warm. Boots that aren’t well sealed from moisture can turn into ice blocks. Look for a high IPX rating. IPX-8 is the highest. It means you could dunk the whole boot in water and your foot would stay dry. And be sure to buy them big enough to fit in some thick wool socks.

Talk to Your Physician

Tell your doctor if you’re more sensitive to the cold than in the past. It could be a symptom of a problem with your nutrition, red blood cells (anemia), blood vessels, thyroid gland, or the brain’s thermostat. Try to note how often it happens, how long it lasts, and if it’s getting worse. Your doctor might do some tests to narrow down the cause.

Sources: WebMD

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” Next Week – LBP Part II of III
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit:

For further inquires related to this topic email:
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinicalmedicine at GCSOM.