Why Exercise in Colder Weather?

Wellbeing Tips
August 22, 2019

Want to keep up your workouts when fall and winter come around? Check out our top tips.

When the sun’s out and the weather’s nice and warm, exercising doesn’t seem like so much of a chore. But when the days start getting darker and a morning run means braving the wind and rain, it’s a very different story! Even so, you shouldn’t let the cold weather force you indoors, or worse, stop you from exercising altogether. Winter workouts have a whole host of health benefits associated with them, so read on to find out more.

Why is it important to exercise in the winter?

It’s important to keep up your workouts throughout the colder months. According to Rebecca Blake, Senior Director of Clinical Nutrition at Mt. Sinai, the average weight gain during winter stands at around 5 to 10 pounds. So if you decide to beat the chill by snuggling up in bed with Netflix, you could end up gaining some unwanted fat that you’ll struggle to shift in the springtime. Quick PSA: If you’ve decided to give winter workouts a go, check in with a doctor first.
Plus, getting in a few winter workouts can have a great effect on your mental health. There have been numerous research studies on the link between sunlight and depression, with vitamin D considered to be an important factor in the prevention and treatment of depression and other mental health disorders. Improving your sunshine intake by exercising outdoors may help to improve your mood and beat the winter blues. Check out our post about seasonal affective disorder to see some other great ways to break out of the doldrums.

Can an outdoor winter workout help me burn more calories?

There’s a widespread belief that exercising in frigid weather conditions can help you burn more calories than exercising in hot weather, but is there any truth to that? Well, it’s a tricky subject. Although your body does end up using more energy to stay warm in cold weather—either through shivering or brown fat activity—these sorts of calorie-burning bodily processes don’t really kick in until you’re very cold. Given that exercise produces heat, there’s a decent chance that going running in cold weather will give you enough heat that shivering and brown fat won’t help you to burn extra calories.

Other winter workout health benefits

Having said all that, there are still plenty of reasons to head out for a cold weather workout. First and foremost, there’s been some research that suggests exercising may have the potential to strengthen your immune system, helping to protect your body against cold, flu, and other infections. While it’s important to remember that this hasn’t been proven, moderate exercise during the winter—when flu viruses are most common—may help to keep your body fit and healthy.
Secondly, winter workouts may help to boost your energy levels, helping to fight the fatigue that we’re all familiar with over the colder months. When it starts getting darker earlier in the day and you’re bundled up in multiple layers every time you step outside, it’s easy to let fatigue get the better of us, which is why cold-weather exercise is so important.

5 tips for working out in the cold weather

Have you decided to start exercising this winter and fall? Great! Check out some of our top tips for working out in cool weather:

  1. Stay safe. If you’re heading out on the roads or exercising after dark, be sure to wear bright, reflective clothing and avoid wearing headphones, especially if you’re running or cycling outdoors.
  2. Take a break if you’ve got a fever. As we all know, winter is a bit of a ground zero for fevers and illnesses. So, if you’re feeling a little under the weather, it’s probably better to sit out your next few workouts. Put simply, your flu-weakened body won’t be up for running in cold weather, and you could end up damaging your immune system.
  3. Wrap up. There’s no need to prove to all the winter exercise-geeks that you’re as tough as them. Ditch the shorts, and head out with a warm jacket and running gloves.
  4. Don’t forget the sunscreen! Sounds like a bit of a weird one, but it’s just as easy to catch sunburn in winter as it is in summer.
  5. Warm up inside. If your heart’s already pumping by the time you head outside, you’re going to have a much more enjoyable workout!

While winter workouts may not burn more calories than summer sessions, there are still plenty of reasons to wrap up and exercise in the cooler weather.