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.
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.
Need a primary care physician?
Find a St. Joseph Health doctor near you.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.