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Workout Wednesday: Cold Weather Exercise is Good For You, Too!

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It’s no secret that most of us have a love/hate relationship with exercise. Even on our best days, it can be hard to get ourselves to the gym or outside for a run.

Weather can play a big role, too. When the weather turns colder, getting to the gym gets a lot harder. Who wants to leave the warmth of their bed to go out in the cold and get fit, right?

While you wrestle with yourself over whether to head outside or not, think about this: Exercising in the cold can be good for your health. Wondering how? Keep reading and learn!

You, Exercise & Cold Weather

November has arrived, and with it come fewer hours of sunlight and everyone’s favorite—cold weather. Not only are our bodies not producing enough vitamin D because of the sunlight issue, we’re also less than motivated to go out into the cold—especially when exercise is involved.

You already know that fresh air and exercise are good for you, but did you know that there are benefits to exercising in cold weather? Before you decide to start, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider to see if this type of exercise is for you.

So, What are the Benefits, Anyway?

Exercise and nature are good for you. Put them together, and you’ve got a great way to benefit your health. According to an article that appeared in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in February 2011, exercising outdoors can give you an energy boost and help minimize depression, tension, and frustration (Source).

You might exercise outside the rest of the year, which is great, too. However, have you noticed that warmer weather seems to wear you down faster? Dr. Kevin Plancher of Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in New York City explains why that is:

“All exercise can increase your levels of those feel-good hormones, endorphins. But because your body has to work harder in the cold, your endorphin production is boosted even more, leading to a happier state of mind” (Source).

You’ll also be getting some much needed time in the sun, which is crucial for vitamin D production, and for helping you stay positive and happy throughout the colder, shorter winter days.

Cold weather comes with all kinds of exercise benefits. Let’s take a look at some of them:

  • Cold weather exercise is a calorie-burner. When you’re doing your thing outdoors in the cold, your body has to work harder to maintain a healthy temperature. The number of calories you burn will depend on different factors such as body weight, but overall, you should burn a few more when exercising outdoors as opposed to indoors.
  • You’ll be boosting your heart strength. Cold weather makes your heart work harder to move blood throughout your body, which may help maintain good heart health. People with heart issues should converse with their healthcare provider before getting into a cold weather exercise routine.
  • Sun exposure means vitamin D production. It’s no secret that the colder winter months means fewer hours of sunshine. Opting to exercise outdoors during those months may be cold, but it gives you more access to the little sunshine that does occur. Any natural vitamin D production during the winter is always a good thing.
  • You’ll keep yourself hydrated. You already know how essential proper hydration is to your workout and your overall health. You’ll sweat even when you exercise in colder weather, so drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout will ensure you’re staying hydrated and will promote optimal performance.

Tips for Optimal Wellness in Cold Weather Exercise

As with any type of exercise, there are always risks that exist with exercising outside in cold weather. Dr. Mercola states that the three primary dangers of cold weather exercise are frostbite, hypothermia and an increased risk for heart attack (Source). Taking the proper precautions can help minimize these risks.

  • Plan your workout and start small. It may seem odd, but many people overestimate themselves when it comes to cold weather exercise. Start small at first until you know what you’re capable of. This article from Women’s Health says “it’s better to underestimate your ability in the cold. If you have to stop, your body temperature will drop rapidly, increasing your risk for hypothermia.” Instead of running three miles, run one instead.
  • Be aware of the area(s) you’ll be working out in. With winter temperatures come ice, snow, and other potential dangers. Whether you’re planning to go for a run or have opted for another form of outdoor exercise, always be aware of your surroundings. It may be especially important to watch for areas of black ice, which if unnoticed, can cause slips and falls and lead to injury.
  • Dress appropriately. Just as in the summer, be sure to dress for the weather. With the added risks of hypothermia, it’s important to opt for moisture-wicking clothing options, as these will help with moving sweat away from your body. Pay attention to the weather forecast for each workout day and plan accordingly. Choosing reflective materials is always a good option as well.

Do you have any good tips for outdoor exercise during the winter months? Let us in on your secrets by leaving a comment below.

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