As the holiday season approaches, many people who exercise outdoors find it difficult to train in the cold, but they don’t have to. Is it bad to exercise in cold weather? Provided you take a few precautions, exercise in the cold, such as walking, running or cycling, is actually quite beneficial. Exercising in cold weather can improve endurance and cardiovascular function, and like most exercise, it can also improve your mood and mental health.
The Benefits of Exercise in Cold Weather
The notion of “cold weather” does not have the same meaning for everyone, but it is generally considered to be cold when it becomes uncomfortable to stay outside for more than short periods. This discomfort is due to the drastic differences between the outside temperature and the internal temperature of the human body. While being outside in cold weather may require you to wear a jacket or coat to avoid getting cold, it also has some advantages over the ambient temperature. The colder your environment, the harder your body has to work to maintain homeostasis (or balance), which means it uses energy in this process and also derives some health benefits from it. metabolic.
Let’s take a closer look at how training in the cold benefits almost your entire body:
1. Burn extra calories
Why is it more difficult to exercise in the cold? One reason is that your body has to work harder to perform in cold climates, primarily because it has to produce more heat to keep your muscles, organs, and limbs warm. Whenever your body is exposed to some form of ‘stress’, which can include drastic changes in temperature or altitude as well as the exercise itself, your need for energy increases. This causes your muscles to break down glycogen (from carbs) faster in order to feed themselves.
Brown fat is the type of body fat that helps regulate body temperature. When we are outside in the cold, brown fat burns energy (calories) to heat our body and increase body temperature, which helps boost metabolism. Studies show that exercising in cold weather can turn white fat, especially belly and thigh fat, into calorie-burning brown fat. Because exercise in the cold activates brown fat more than exercise at room temperature, it can potentially aid weight loss efforts.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism even found that cold weather workouts can burn more calories than workouts done in more comfortable temperatures.
2. May Help Improve Stamina
Exercising in the heat can tire you out more easily because it increases sweating and your heart rate faster. On the other hand, exercising in the cold may allow you to train longer, which may mean that you can build up your endurance and endurance more easily. What is the ideal temperature to train or compete to optimize endurance? Research suggests a temperature of 10 to 12 degrees Celsius, as this is the most comfortable temperature for breathing quickly and exercising. However, it is possible to train in even colder temperatures. (See below for more information on training at different temperatures).
3. Fight depression and seasonal depression
Exercising outdoors in the winter, where you are exposed to sunlight, is considered an effective strategy to help with seasonal depression, a type of mood disorder/depression that tends to to touch people during the dark winter months. Sunlight and exercise both have a positive impact on mood for a number of reasons, including helping to release more “comforting” chemicals, including serotonin and endorphins. Another cognitive and mental health benefit of exercising in cold weather? Some studies have shown that people who exercise in the cold tend to improve their decision-making, concentration and memory. Other research shows that exercise in general is helpful in decreasing anxiety and improving concentration.
4. May Help You Sleep Better
The combination of exposure to sunlight during the day, fresh air, and physical activity can help you relax and sleep more soundly at night. Sunlight is important for regulating your circadian rhythm, also known as your “internal clock,” which keeps you feeling sleepy enough at night to fall asleep and alert enough in the morning to wake up. The stress-relieving effects of exercise, whether done indoors or outdoors, are also important for fighting insomnia.
5. Promotes Heart and Metabolic Health
Almost any type of exercise benefits your cardiovascular system and can help promote insulin sensitivity and better blood sugar management. Regular physical activity, such as brisk walking or jogging outdoors, has been associated with a reduced risk of common health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar.
What to wear?
When the temperature outside drops, it’s important to wear the right clothes to help keep your core body temperature warm. Clothing and accessories that help retain body heat help warm your muscles so you feel less stiff or tense.
Here are some tips on what to wear for exercising in cold weather:
Your bottom layer should ideally be a thin, synthetic garment (like polyester, polypropylene, and nylon), which wicks sweat away from your body. You will thus be less humid and less chilly than if you were wearing cotton. Look for clothes labeled “moisture wicking.” On top of your thin layer, add something heavier that will keep you insulated, like a sweatshirt, jacket, or fleece.
Cover vulnerable parts of your body:
Your hands, feet, toes, ears and the tip of your nose are most likely to get very cold and even develop frostbite if it’s freezing outside. This happens because your body is conserving energy and prioritizing warming up your body rather than your extremities. Depending on the temperature, cover up with a hat, gloves, mask, scarf or goggles to expose less skin. Be sure to wear warm socks, but make sure they are comfortable depending on the type of shoes you are wearing. (You’ll need thinner socks if you’re wearing trainers versus ski shoes or boots, which may work well with wool or heavy cotton socks). If you have very cold hands, try wearing thin glove liners under thicker fleece-lined gloves.
Remember to protect your skin: Moisturize your skin regularly in winter to retain water and prevent dryness and chapping.
Although a little sun in the winter can be very beneficial, too much sun can burn your skin even if it’s cold outside. Apply sunscreen if you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially if you’re near snow, which can reflect sunlight, for example, if you’re skiing or snowboarding. Most dermatologists recommend wearing a 30 SPF+ sunscreen if you’re out in the sun for more than 20-30 minutes, along with a lip balm that contains sunscreen.
What temperature is too cold?
What temperature is too cold to exercise outside? The ideal temperature for exercising outdoors in cold weather is between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius.
That said, exercise can be done safely in most cold environments without causing cold injury… the Wind Feel Temperature Index can be used to estimate the relative risk of frostbite and increased monitoring of practitioners should be set up at windward temperatures below -18 degrees C.
In other words, most adults can exercise in very cold weather, even in temperatures below 0 degrees. However, it is essential to wear suitable equipment as soon as the temperature drops below 0 degrees, and to watch out for any signs of cold-related injury (numbness, clumsiness and very red and cold skin). Be careful to avoid frostbite when the temperature drops below -15 degrees C and the wind blows, which increases the risk of cold-related injuries.