Is cold weather starting to drag you down? It shouldn’t. Why? Because there are at least 10 reasons why cold weather training is good for you. Know what they are? We do and we’re sharing!
Baby, it’s cold outside, so maybe the last thing you want to do is hit the gym. It’s true that colder weather naturally sends many of us into hibernation mode, where cuddling up in warm clothes and a blanket might seem like our only plan.
Not so fast.
The winter months can give your workout routine a new lease on life.
Rather than give in to the urge to hide your body under layers of sweaters or push your fitness goals back until after the first of the year, take advantage of the cold. Winter weather workouts are an under-appreciated gem. There’s no reason to swear off your workouts and put your progress on the shelf just because of what the thermometer reads. If you’re working out in the cold and doing it right, then this will just ensure that your fitness goals are kept up all 12 months of the year.
So before you crank up the heat and hunker down inside, think about these 10 reasons to give cold weather training a try. If you’re already a fan of year-round working out, these perks will just solidify your love of cold-weather workouts.
#1 It Helps You Beat The Cold-Weather Blues
Despite the holiday cheer of the winter months, they can be a dark time. For anyone suffering from the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you know that starting roughly at the beginning of fall, your mood might just feel off. SAD can typically make for a gloomy few months when the cold sets in.
Those with SAD have in the past been able to turn to approaches like light therapy or medications to shake the blues. The good news is that lacing up and hitting the pavement, or getting in a good gym session, can naturally boost your emotional health. You’ll feel the benefits almost right away.
So get outside for your workout and soak up some sun. It will directly fight the gloom from SAD. Your workout will release endorphins, which boosts mood and wards off symptoms of depression, and you’ll continue to feel perked up the rest of the day.
#2 It Presents New Training Options
Summer months mean fun in the sun. If you live in a hot climate, it makes certain workouts more or less off limits.
Ever tried running in 100 degrees or working out at all in the dog days of summer?
Luckily, the cold provides a welcome relief from sweltering weather. The winter months also open up a range of new choices of cold weather sports to take advantage of the season. Instead of bemoaning the lack of warmth and sun, embrace the winter months for the new options that come with them, and try your hand at something you haven’t done before like cross country skiing, snowboarding or winter marathons.
#3 Your Cardiovascular System Will Thank You
In the same way that the rest of your system has to work harder when placed under icy conditions, your heart works on overtime in the cold. With cardiovascular disease a major health threat in this country, anything that strengthens your heart is a smart move to add to your workout. Cold weather training does just this.
It does so by forcing your heart to pump extra hard to circulate blood through the entire body.
To be safe, always ask your doctor if cold weather training is right for you, especially if you suffer from any prior conditions or heart issues. But for the majority of healthy, active people, this extra pressure on the heart is a good thing. Why? By strengthening the heart via cold-weather training, you’ll be upping your stamina and strength for the future, long past the end of the winter months.
Without a healthy heart, nothing else matters. That’s why this is one of the best benefits to cold weather training and a great reason to stick to your workout routine during the winter.
#4 You’ll Torch Extra Calories
You can think of your wintertime workouts as a supercharged version of your normal sweat sessions. Why? The reason is because cold weather training quite literally results in more calories burned.
Whatever workout you do in the warm weather, the cold weather will only max out on the caloric burn. This is because the body is quite simply forced to work harder to keep its core temperature regulated. As the body works hard to stay warm, the metabolism is kicked into overdrive, and your body burns through more calories and fat.
So not only can you pat yourself on the back for getting through a winter workout, but you’ll know your return on the investment will be greater than it would be under warmer conditions.
#5 You’ll Fight Off Winter Weight Gain
Cold-weather training is one of the greatest weapons to cheat your way around an evolutionary tactic that could spell disaster for your waistline. During the colder months, your body goes into something of a hibernation mode.
The low temps signal to your body a coming shortage of calories. Because of this, your body is programmed to hold onto any calories it takes in, and often converts them directly into fat stores that are designed to get the body through the long, cold months ahead. These days, that’s hardly a welcomed tactic, especially if you are trying to watch your weight.
Luckily, cold training provides a way to outsmart this survival tactic of the body. By working out in the cold, you trick your body into letting go of fat that it otherwise might hold onto. Beat the bulge by sweating it out even during the cold months, and your year-round body and fitness level will thank you.
#6 It Can Boost Immunity
All too often, the fall and winter months mean an increase in the dreaded cold and flu. No one wants this, most especially when you are trying to stick to your workout routine. A cold is the last thing you have time for.
Beef up your body’s immunity naturally, starting now. Doing so means you’ll have a much better chance at coasting through the winter months and staying free of that cold that everyone else in the office passes around. All it takes is staying true to your workout routine, regardless of the temperatures.
It’s common knowledge that exercise strengthens our body’s ability to work at peak levels and, as a result, ward off everything from the common cold to nasty strains of flu. Some studies in the U.K. found that by training during the cold months, you are 20 to 30% less likely to succumb to the flu, versus those who sit out of training during the winter. If that’s not a reason to hit the gym or lace up your running shoes, we don’t know what is.
#7 It’s A Refreshing Boost
Is there anything more refreshing than a burst of cool air to wake you up and make you feel alive?
Winter training in the great outdoors is one of the quickest and most effective jolts to your system and will refresh your mind, body and spirit.
Enjoy the crisp air, nature and sunshine for a natural pick-me-up anytime. Even just a short 20-minute jog or bodyweight workout outside can be counted on to put pep back into your step. Thanks to exercise, there’s no reason to let the stresses of the holidays or the cold weather drudgery get you down this year.
#8 It Will Increase Your Toughness
It might seem surprising that extra strain on the body would be a good thing, but the healthy challenge that is cold weather training will keep your body strong and hearty. The extreme conditions of the winter season signal to our body’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems to kick into high gear. Over time, we become stronger and fitter because of it.
Since endurance can decrease with age, illness or injury, you can consider the winter months a time to bulk back up your endurance levels and sculpt a strong, warrior-like body that will continue to serve you through the rest of the calendar year as well. If you find yourself wanting to slack on a workout, don’t forget that what you do during your cold-weather training will make your workouts feel easier in the future.
#9 It’s A Less Taxing Time For Running
Ever noticed that most marathons are scheduled during winter months?
There’s a reason!
Running is a taxing sport as it is. But add in the extra strains of soaring temperatures, sticky humidity and the excess sweat and risk of dehydration that comes with the summer months, and it can be a serious drain on your body. Winter months alleviate many of these risks and allow you to enjoy your running with far less strenuous consequences for your body.
#10 You’ll Dose Up On D
In the winter months, it’s all too easy to hide out indoors from the nasty weather. And, though in some areas it’s much more extreme than others, regardless of where you are in the world daylight will of course, be in shorter supply. This means that if you’re already short on vitamin D, as many Americans tend to be, you run a greater risk of deficiency during the winter.
One obvious way to beat this is to take your exercise outside during the winter to replenish your dose of vitamin D. Responsible for maintaining everything from strong, healthy bone development to a high-functioning immune system, vitamin D is crucial for good health.
For most people, just 10 minutes in the midday sun is enough to keep levels where they should be. Beyond just bone health and a better ability to ward off diseases and sicknesses, D is also responsible for keeping symptoms of depression and moodiness at bay, so the mood-boosting impacts of winter training will be heightened from the extra D intake.
With all these hearty benefits to cold weather training now fresh in your mind, you should be eager to hit the pavement right away and get your sweat on no matter what the temperature is. The perks are practically endless.
It should go without saying, but be sure to couple your newfound zest for winter workouts with a healthy dose of common sense, too. This will ensure you’re staying safe and maximizing all of the benefits of winter training.
For example, don’t slack on the SPF before heading outside—you can get sunburn and run the risk of skin cancer in December just as easy as you would in July. In that vein, don’t let the cooler temps trick you into feeling less thirsty. Stay plenty hydrated at all times, even though you may not feel like you’re losing as much water from sweating.
Though the low temps shouldn’t hold you back, use your good sense on very cold days or when conditions such as ice or snow could make your workout dangerous, and never push yourself beyond what feels right in your body. Just because your body will feel warm from exercising, don’t neglect to keep your body guarded from the elements.
Extremities are usually the first to fall prey to frostbite if the temperatures are low enough, so be on guard for warning signs like tingling. Bundle up. Dress in layers. And don’t forget that there is never a more important time for a proper warm-up and cool down before and after each workout. Lastly, look out for cold-weather hazardous conditions like deep snow or slippery ice. These could cause injuries.
Listen to your body because it always knows best. With these benefits and safety tips in mind, it’s a winter wonderland out there for your workouts. Come the start of the New Year, when your fitness resolutions are already a reality, your body will thank you.
By Emmy Schneider-Green