Despite warnings, people still exercising in bitter cold

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Doctors and emergency rooms are preparing for the worst as this cold snap take hold.

“It’s early in the year, people aren’t quite used to the cold yet. And so we have people who aren’t completely prepared for it,” said Dr. Ed Bartkus, IU Health ER physician.

With temperatures barely making it out of the teens on Wednesday, doctors are concerned that more patients will succumb to the cold.

They’re especially concerned for people who choose to be outside.

“This is pretty much a lifestyle choice,” said Chuck Okenfuss. Okenfuss continues to run on the canal in low temperatures. “It’s not as bad as the weather would make it seem, running along the Canal, it’s not very windy. It’s kind of cold, but I need to get outside.”

“We pride ourselves on being weatherproof,” said Jason Shaw, the co-leader of a workout group named November Project Indy.

Being outside is a requirement for it’s members.

“Two things you can always count on: one, it’ll always be free. Two, it will always be outside,” said Shaw.

November Project is an international fitness movement. Every Wednesday morning the Indianapolis group works out on the War Memorial, including in Wednesday morning’s three degree weather.

“The best feeling is working out and finishing your workout in some weather like that,” Shaw said. “Because you feel proud that you’ve done something that not a lot of people have done that day.”

But working out in temperatures this cold could land you in the hospital.

“They’re counting on them running to generate enough heat and it works most of the the year, but when it’s really, really cold, they need to be having layers as well,” said Dr. Bartkus.

Hypothermia can set in in a matter of minutes. It can cause confusion, sleepiness, slowed, slurred speech or shallow breathing. It can also lead to death.

“I recommend people limit (exercising outside in the cold). People will run, there’s diehard runners who want to do that no matter what, just do it with a good amount of common sense,” Bartkus said.

If you’re going to be out, it is strongly advised that you at least wear a hat, a scarf and gloves. Also, dress in layers.