Finding the motivation to work out in cold weather can be really tough. For people like me who prefer going for walks and running outside, or doing a fitness class with friends, the winter weather can sometimes put a damper on my motivation to get out and get my body moving. But, I recently learned that winter workouts in frosty air actually can be good for your body, which came as a total shock to me.
While doing your cycling, running, or walking routine in 30 and 40 degree temperatures may not sound too appealing at first, there are a lot of health benefits you can reap from doing so.
Your immune system actually works harder in the cold, so taking your workouts outside could potentially be beneficial in fighting off colds or illnesses. Winter is prime cold and flu season, but by exercising outdoors and exposing your body to the colder temperatures, you can strengthen your immune system to help minimize your risk of getting sick.
Those of us with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) understand just how tough the winter climate can be on our mood. But, luckily, working out in the cold can help remedy this. While working out generally releases endorphins — which boosts your overall mood — the cold weather stimulates your parasympathetic system, aka, your “relax and renew” system. The endorphins released from your parasympathetic system during a cold-weather workout can help you release dopamine and serotonin, which leave you feeling happier post-workout.
It’s estimated that about 1 billion (yes, billion) adults worldwide are vitamin D deficient. Science shows that getting your daily dose of vitamin D in the winter is important since levels are lower in the winter compared to those we typically have in the summer — and more vitamin D intake means increased mood, better disease resistance, and increased energy. So getting outside, even briefly, and soaking up some sun is imperative.
Studies show working out in the cold might burn more calories than when it’s warmer. The cold weather can actually increase the number of calories you burn because of the amount of energy it takes your body just to keep itself warm, in addition to the calories burnt from the exercise itself. So, if you track your calories, you might be doing yourself a favor by getting out into the cold for a workout.
Overall, exercising in colder temperatures proves to have some good health benefits — but before you get started, remember to warm up your muscles as much as possible, since the cold weather puts your muscles at greater risk for straining or pulling. Stretches that doctors recommend you do before heading out into the colder temps include arm circles, arm swings, lunges, and high steps. We also recommend this full-body warm-up to get you going!
About the author
Maddie is a writer and lover of all things wellness and lifestyle. She’s been featured on doctoroz.com, The TODAY Show Digital, PureWow, The Knot, and now Playbook! When she’s not working on a story, you can find her searching for a perfectly constructed charcuterie board, laying in the sun, or at a yoga class (mostly to work off the charcuterie board).