The Benefits of Cold Weather Exercise
When winter rolls around, many see it as a time to hibernate. If exercise is on the cards, it can seem easier to opt for a gym session or a home workout to avoid the cold weather.
But as many are working from home, making the need to get outside greater, and despite our minds and bodies telling us to stay in the warmth, there are many benefits of cold weather exercise.
1. Boosts your immune system
During colder months, our immune systems become weaker, making bugs and viruses more common. One of the benefits of exercising in winter is that your immune system works harder to defend itself against the elements and, in turn, helps your body fight off infections.
2. Elevates your mood
As the days become shorter and darker, many people struggle with combating seasonal depression in winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, happens because our bodies aren’t getting enough light (vitamin D), which affects our body clocks and serotonin levels.
Some symptoms of SAD include:
- Having low energy or feeling sluggish
- Oversleeping and feeling tired
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling down and losing interest in activities
Making sure to continue exercising through winter is one of the ways to combat SAD. This is because physical exercise naturally increases mood-boosting endorphins. And getting the sun on your skin, even winter sun, can help get your vitamin D levels back up.
3. Strengthens your body and mind
We all know that exercise gets our heart rates up and strengthens our muscles, but one of the benefits of working out in the cold is the need for mental resilience. Even before we’ve stepped outside in winter, we can imagine the shock that will shiver through our bones as the temperature hits us. This is our body’s natural instincts kicking in, warning us to stay inside and keep storing fat instead of burning it.
Psyching ourselves up enough to push past our body’s hard-wired signals is impressive in itself but gathering up the courage regularly will also make your ability to face challenges head-on stronger.
4. Good for heart health
When we’re cold, our body has to pump blood around our body harder to keep us warm. Add exercise into the mix and your heart works twice as hard, making it a great cardiovascular workout.
5. Keeps you hydrated
When it’s hot, we tend to drink more water to cool us down. During winter, we feel less of a need to do this but staying hydrated is just as important to maintain general health.
Despite the cold, your body continues to sweat if you exercise outside in winter. If you’ve got the right layers on, the sweat will evaporate quicker, making it seem like you’re not sweating as much and therefore don’t need water. But making sure to drink water before and after working out in the cold keeps your energy levels up, flushes out toxins and keeps your organs functioning properly.
Does being cold burn calories?
There’s some evidence to suggest that being cold can burn calories. This happens for two reasons:
- In the cold, your body doesn’t have to work as hard to keep its core temperature regulated, which means you can exercise for farther or longer and burn more calories as a result.
- Cold weather training helps to turn the white fat we use for energy storage into brown fat, which stimulates our metabolism and helps to burn calories.