Weather hazards to avoid when walking include rain, snow, ice, hail, lightning, strong winds, fog, and other harsh weather conditions. High altitudes and darkness can also curtail your outdoor walking. With a little bit of ingenuity, however, you may be able to walk your way around these hazards.
On warm days (temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit), rain shouldn't be much of a problem as long as you keep your feet dry (which helps to prevent blisters and infections). On rainy days when the mercury dips below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, a light rain jacket will give you sufficient protection.
The best materials are waterproof but breathable -- that is, they don't let water in, but they do let out water vapor from perspiration. If you don't want to get your hair wet, you can either wear a hat or carry an umbrella.
Some people love to walk in the snow. To cope with the snow, simply follow the directions for walking in the cold. Be sure, however, to wear proper footwear to avoid slipping.
Your pace will be slower, but that's okay. If the snow is deep, you'll be working just as hard as you would be at a faster pace on a clean street. If you doubt that, check your pulse.
Walking on ice can be treacherous. It is easy to slip and injure yourself. If there is ice on the road or sidewalk, it's best to wait until later in the day, when it's been sanded, salted, or melted by the sun.
Hail can also be a problem. If the hail is large, take shelter immediately. If it's small, be your own judge. Most of the time, it won't harm you. As soon as you hear thunder or see any lightning, however, head indoors. Walking outdoors during a thunderstorm is dangerous.
If you're walking into a stiff breeze, you may want to slow down. Walking against the wind is like walking through deep snow. It takes extra work, so you'll get the same benefits that you would in a faster walk under normal circumstances.
High altitudes offer a source of special problems. At 5,000 feet above sea level and higher, the air contains significantly less oxygen than it does at lower altitudes. So there is less oxygen for your body to take in.
As a result, your heart has to work extra hard. For every 2,500 feet that you ascend, plan on taking at least a week to adjust to the decline in oxygen concentration.
One way that you might adjust is to cut the pace or duration of your program by 50 percent at the beginning. If you find yourself short of breath at that rate, slow down even further.
When the weather turns foggy, don't wear white, gray, or other light-colored clothes. Motorists will not be able to see you. Bright red or orange clothing is best.
To learn more about walking, see:
Peggy Norwood Keating, MA, Contributing consultantRebecca Hughes, Contributing writer