Check out the benefits of cold weather workouts and tips to do it safely.
It’s tempting to pack away your workout gear and sit next to the fire sipping hot chocolate when it’s cold outside. While you can do a little of that, don’t let it completely replace your exercise. Outdoor exercise can be intimidating, especially when you’ve got to wear multiple layers to stay warm and run through things like snow and ice. It can be difficult to find your motivation to exercise when there’s a chill in the air, but a little outdoor exercise can actually invigorate your body, help you burn more calories, boost your energy and improve your mood.
Top four benefits of cold weather workouts
When temperatures dip, your heart and muscles need to work harder to help keep your body warm. Here’s how all of that cold weather, movement and exercise can benefit your health:
- You burn more calories. Because your body is working harder to stay warm, exercising can give your metabolism a boost, helping you burn more calories and fat.
- Your endurance increases. A chilly workout strengthens your heart, lungs and circulatory system, which may help improve your ability to keep going longer next time.
- You ward off winter blues. Fresh air and sunlight helps relieve symptoms of depression associated with seasonal affective disorder.
- You feel happier. Both exercise and chilly temperatures stimulate your sympathetic system, which is responsible for manufacturing and releasing ‘feel-good’ hormones like serotonin and dopamine.
Are you ready to take your workout outside? We’ll help you do it safely with these cool workout tips!
Seven tips to help you exercise safely when it’s cold outside
Outdoor exercise in the winter can be an invigorating, energizing and refreshing experience, as long as it’s done safely. Here are a few simple tips for staying safe and warm while you reap the benefits of a chilly outdoor workout:
- Check the weather and wind chill. If it’s warmer than 5 degrees Fahrenheit, it can be safe to exercise outdoors as long as keep your skin unexposed. The tricky part is wind chill. If wind chill drives temps below negative 15 degrees, it’s best to exercise indoors to avoid risk of frostbite. Be sure to check your local weather forecast before heading out.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to stay hydrated. Though it may not seem like it, you are sweating and losing just as much, if not more, water as you do during warm weather workouts. Dehydration also makes it harder for your heart to pump blood.
- Wear a moisture-wicking base layer. It’s important to keep moisture and sweat away from your skin, especially when it’s cold outside. Look for tight-fitting pants and tops that are made from silk, polyester-blends or synthetic fabrics. These will help keep your skin drier and warmer than cotton.
- Add more layers over the base. Exercising can make your body feel like it’s warmer outside than it really is. Make sure you’re wearing enough layers so you can remove a few until your temperature stabilizes. Be sure to put the layers back on to avoid hypothermia or frostbite. Typical winter workout layering includes: one or two base layers, one insulating layer, a jacket, fleece-lined tights, gloves, hat and neck warmer.
- Wear a hat, scarf and gloves. Exercising pulls blood away from your head, feet and hands toward your core. Cover up and stay warm with a wool hat, wool socks and gloves or mittens made from synthetic fibers.
- Watch out for ice. Exercise in well-travelled areas or streets and sidewalks that have been recently plowed, shoveled and deiced to avoid slips, trips, slides or falls. You’ll also want to keep a watchful eye for thin layers of ice, known as black ice, that blend in with the pavement.
- Warm up and cool down. Get your blood moving with a little pre-exercise warm up so your muscles are flexible and less prone to strains, sprains and injury. Cool down afterward with stretching to lower your heart rate and maintain flexibility.
Now that you’re ready to get outside and get your blood pumping, you may want to get your pantry ready with healthy food options for a post-workout snack.
Outdoor exercise in the winter may be risky for people with asthma, exercise-induced bronchitis, a heart condition or circulatory problems. Please consult your primary care physician before beginning any new exercise program.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.