When it’s cold, grey and gloomy outside the last thing you’re thinking about is racking up miles on your Nike app, more like racking up the hours on Netflix. But there are many benefits to working out in the cold, here’s why you need to consider it.
Benefits of exercising outdoors in winter
You’ll burn more calories
Most probably the thing that’s going to motivate you most, you can burn more calories. As the body works harder to regulate its core temperature among the elements, you’ll burn a few more calories as a result.
Calorie burn varies for each person’s body mass and the extremity of the temperature, but still, it’s a morale booster to know that you’re going to get more from your sweat session when it’s cold outside.
It boosts your immune system
According to the NHS, studies have found that moderate levels of exercise can boost the immune system and improve your defences against dreaded winter coughs and colds. Although pushing yourself TOO hard during exercise can have the opposite effect, moderate and regular exercise does make you less likely to end up buried knee deep in tissues and Lemsip.
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You’ll strengthen your heart
Cold weather also makes the heart work harder to distribute blood throughout the body. For an unhealthy heart that struggles to manage the additional stress, this process can exacerbate illness and injury. But for those who exercise regularly with cardiovascular endurance cold weather sessions can make their heart muscle even stronger, better preparing the body for more strenuous workouts in the future.
Become more efficient
You know how cold weather gets you gasping? That’s a good thing. Running in cold conditions trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently. Research from Northern Arizona University found that after regular cold workouts, you add 29% to your running speed.
It gives you extra energy
Whilst this definitely sounds like a lie when you’re dragging yourself out from under the duvet pre-sunrise, working out does give you more energy in the long run. Studies show sedentary people who start moving experience a dramatic drop in fatigue, meaning your early morning Pilates can help banish that overwhelming sense of knackeredness when the 6am alarm starts blaring.
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Get a dose of Vitamin D
The importance of vitamin D has long been noted, and while the twice daily commute might be done in darkness, forcing yourself outside during daylight hours is vital to help you get those critical nutrients.
Just remember to wear your sunscreen (yes, even when it’s freezing) after your skin is exposed for 10 to 15 minutes.
You’ll feel happier and more energised
Being outside and taking in more sun during the daylight hours helps keep your mind sharp and relieves depression as well as increasing your body’s manufacturing of vitamin D.
As the body works harder to stay warm, the amount of endorphins produced also increases, leaving you with a stronger sense of happiness and lightness following a workout in the cold.
Reinvigorate your routine
Whether you like to walk, run, or bike, the heat and humidity of summer make it pretty difficult to up your intensity or mileage. Winter, on the other hand, makes it a lot easier to handle since you aren’t subject to the same stresses. So you can manage to push yourself that little further and up your intensity.
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Practical tips to exercising outdoors in winter
Now that we’ve shared the motivation to keep you going in the cold, here are the practicalities you need to consider.
It is important to wear the correct type of layers that direct sweat away from the body and keep heat in. That way your body will be able to maintain a consistent temperature and you won’t become too hot or too cold too rapidly.
Protect your extremities
Don’t forget to keep your hands and feet protected. You can lose around 30% of your body heat through extremities, so make sure you have some gloves to hand.
The body takes longer to warm up in winter so include a proper warm up and cool down in your routine. Do your cooling down stretches indoors to avoid the body getting too cold.