Braving the cold: the perks of outdoor exercise during winter

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Braving the cold: the perks of outdoor exercise during winter

Posted on Thu Jan 31, 2019

For those who exercise outdoors, it can be hard to find the motivation to brave the cold for some cardiovascular activity. We’ve put together some of the perks of exercising in cold weather, along with some tips for combating the chill, so you can reap the rewards.

Increases calorific output

Calorie burning increases in the cold for two reasons. The first is quite straightforward: the cold weather requires more energy to keep your body warm. This, coupled with exercise, increases the number of calories required to produce that energy. The second reason is that brown fat is more active in cold weather. Brown fat burns calories in an effort to produce body heat; this is utilised particularly in babies who aren’t able to shiver. So getting out in the cold can help you burn any extra calories from the overindulging of the festive season rather than converting it into additional fat tissue.

Improves your mood

Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins improve your mood. As previously mentioned, exercising in the cold requires your body to expend more energy as it has to work harder to keep warm, while also supplying muscles with blood for respiration, thus releasing more endorphins. The winter months bring with them less sunlight and this can have a negative impact on your mood. Exercising outside provides more exposure to sunlight which can help battle Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Supercharges your immune system

Contrary to what your mother may have told you, being out in the cold will not make you ill. In fact, quite the opposite is true. While it is well-known that regular exercise helps to strengthen the immune system, exercising in cold weather can have additional benefits. Pre-exercise shivering can lead to increased norepinephrine response which, in turn, boosts immune response after bouts of exercise. To add to this, remaining indoors in the warm will expose you more to anyone who may be carrying a seasonal cold, so getting outdoors will reduce the chances of you falling victim to the same ailment.

Reaping the benefits

To get started on your cold-weather exercise journey, come prepared for your workout with these tips:

 

  • Dress for the weather – wear loose, light layers to trap warm air. Wear a breathable synthetic first layer to wick moisture away from your body, followed by an insulating layer, then a waterproof and windproof top layer.
  • Warm up – to prevent the likelihood of an injury from stiffness: hop, jump or jog in place to encourage blood flow to your muscles.
  • Cover your extremities – wear gloves, cover your ears and even wear a balaclava if your nose and chin are cold.
  • Slip prevention – ensure your shoes have adequate grip for frosty services.

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