The Benefits of Exercising in Cold Weather

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by Casey McIlvaine

Despite the fact that the winter months tend to drive most people indoors and abandon outdoors exercise opportunities, there are many reasons to make the small changes and adapt exercise opportunities to winter exercise. Here are just a few of the many benefits that can be derived from exercising in cold weather.running-in-snow

You’ll burn more calories.

As the body works harder to regulate its core temperature among the elements, you’ll burn a few more calories during your wintry workout compared to one conducted indoors. The level of calorie burn is dependent on the individual’s specific body mass, and the outside temperature.

You’ll get a stronger heart, lungs, and circulatory system.

Because the heart works harder to distribute blood through the body when it is cold, anyone with a healthy heart and adequate cardiovascular endurance will strengthen their heart through cold weather workouts. The same holds true for the body’s circulatory system and lungs.

It elevates your mood and energy level.

With the low humidity of cold temperatures during the winter, it actually works to elevate your mood over and above exercising in the humid summer months. That’s because as your body works harder to stay warm it increases its endorphin production, which triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that keep us happy, feeling good and ease depression. This is known as the parasympathetic system or colloquially as the “relax and renew” system.

An early Duke University study found a direct correlation between cardio exercise and an increased amount of serotonin in the brain, which reduces depression symptoms. Since then a number of research studies have bolstered these findings A 2011 article appearing in the online news section of the American Psychological Association brought together much of the ensuing research that shows why exercise can elevate mood in the near term as well as long-term, which makes a sympathetic case for getting outside during the colder months.

skiing-in-winterYou’ll get a dose of vitamin D.

The benefits of the sun in terms of getting that needed vitamin D is just as present in the winter as in the summer. If you head out on a winter day when the sun is in full effect, be sure to put on some sunscreen to protect your skin.

Be prepared and get out there.

Now that you’re ready to get out there, you need to remember to prepare and dress accordingly. Be sure to dress in layers with a moisture wicking base layer to pull sweat away and keep off the chill, followed by a thermal layer for more warmth. The outer layer should be a lighter shell that blocks wind and water. Don’t forget to protect those extremities with warm socks, hats and gloves.

If you’re running, jogging or walking, wear running shoes that provide a higher level of traction on slippery surfaces and use extra caution. Be sure to drink plenty of water as it can be more difficult to determine when you are becoming dehydrated in the cold weather.

When you take these precautions into account, there is nothing but upside to exercising in cold weather. One of the best bonuses is you’ll get is that you will rediscover nature at a great time of year where your surrounded by beautiful scenery that helps to refresh you and help you to reconnect with your surroundings.

 

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