The Benefits of Exercising in Cold Weather

The nights are drawing in, there’s a chill in the air, and we’d all rather be cosied up on the sofa under a blanket. However, even in Winter, exercise is important for your physical and mental health. If running in cold weather is the last thing you want to do, the benefits of cold-weather exercise are great for both your body and your mind.

Physical Benefits of Cold-Weather Exercise

We know exercise is good for your body, but why does winter make it even better? Strap on your running shoes, we’re going for a sprint through the physical benefits of cold-weather exercise.

Greater Calorie Burn

Calories are units of energy that your body uses from food or fat deposits in the body. Your body “burns calories” by expending energy through physical activity and basic metabolic functions. These include breathing, digestion and thermoregulation (keeping your body at the right temperature).

Thermoregulation means that when you’re exposed to colder temperatures, the body works to create more heat by using energy, or burning calories. The colder it is, the more calories you’ll burn.

What’s more, research has shown that exposure to colder temperatures may cause white fat cells, which store excess energy, to convert into brown fat cells, which generate heat from chemical energy.

Improved Heart Health AND Enhanced Endurance

When you exercise in colder temperatures, your body needs to work harder, creating energy movement and heat regulation. This means your heart is pumping faster than usual to supply enough fuel to the muscles, giving your whole cardiovascular system a workout.

As your heart gets stronger and healthier, you’ll be able to work harder for longer, with increased stamina and endurance.

exercising-in-cold

Increased Muscle Effort

In colder temperatures, your muscles work much harder to perform the same work as they would when it’s warmer. On one hand, this means you need to warm up for longer periods before working out to mitigate damage. On the other hand, with those extra warm-ups, your regular workout will be more efficient at building strength and muscle mass than in warmer conditions.

Mental Health Benefits

Exercise is great for your mental health, as we know. The endorphin release from exercise reduces stress, improves your mood and gives you an energy boost – all things we need desperately in the darker months.

Mood Elevation

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a serious problem for many people in the winter months. This is a temporary mood problem associated with how a lack of sunlight affects the hypothalamus, the brain centre which controls mood, sleep and appetite. If you’re struggling with SAD, seasonal depression or “the winter blues”, you may have low mood, loss of energy and increased stress. Low-impact aerobic exercise, such as running, yoga, strength training or swimming can improve symptoms of SAD. The endorphins released after exercise reduce pain, increase feelings of well-being and improve energy levels.

Increased Alertness

Because exercise kickstarts your metabolism and circulation, your brain has access to more energy than it does when you are at rest. This means you are better able to stay alert during the day. Add in cold weather, and you get a dual benefit: your body responds to cold air with increased metabolism and circulation. Exercising outdoors in winter helps battle the sleepiness many of us feel in winter, giving you a boost of mental energy and combatting fatigue.

Safety Tips for Cold-Weather Exercise

Since exercise burns more energy than usual during cold periods, it’s important to make sure you don’t deplete your reserves or allow yourself to get too cold, as there is a risk of hypothermia.

  • Layering: Wear a close-fitting, thin base layer with a loose-fitting thicker layer over the top to trap body heat and warm air close to your body.
  • Hydration: Even though it isn’t warm outside, your body uses water during exercise. Keep drinking water and stay hydrated to avoid health problems.
  • Pre-Workout Warm-up: Your muscles work harder in the cold than in the warm, so be sure to warm up thoroughly. Muscle tears and strains can take a long time to heal and set back your progress, but a long warm-up period will help them adjust to the extra pressure.

winter-exercising

JLL Fitness Products for Winter Workouts

There are so many reasons to keep exercising through the winter. From improved cardiac health to a fantastic endorphin rush, staying active is key to maintaining your health and strength. You can be kind to your inner hibernator by taking gentler sessions, but stopping altogether will have more negative effects than positives.

If you really can’t face working out in the cold, you can always invest in some indoor exercise equipment to make sure your training doesn’t suffer. Treat yourself to some home gym equipment, such as weights or resistance bands. If you have space, consider buying a folding treadmill, a stationary bike or a rowing machine to keep up your cardio burn.

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Digital Marketing Manager for JLL Fitness. Interests: Marketing, Digital Marketing, Advertising, Promotions, Sports and Fitness.

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