10 Things You Didn't Know About Exercising in Cold Weather
If you haven't noticed, fall is here in full swing.
Unless you live close to the equator, the colorful leaves, cooler weather, and the chance to get out and exercise without feeling like a heatstroke are finally here.
I'm not a huge fan of super cold weather, but if you can fight from hiding under your covers all of the time, there are a lot of great reasons why you should opt to exercise in cold weather.
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From boosting your immunity to performance gains, here are 10 things you may not have known about exercising in cold weather.
1.) You Could Be Faster
A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise took a look at marathon runners across many races and years. The researchers found that the runners' performance progressively decreased as the temperature increased from 40ºF to 77ºF.
It's hard to run in the heat.
Researchers also found that as the temperature drops below 40ºF, we slowly start to get slower. This is because your blood vessels constrict and force your heart to work harder.
2.) You May Burn More Calories
While the evidence here isn't clear, some experts believe exposure to colder weather could be a key to burning more calories.
The caveat here is that you have to actually be cold — bundling under 10 layers of clothes won't allow your body temperature to get cold enough to experience any extra calorie expenditure.
3.) Your Brown Fat Levels Will Increase
There are two kinds of fat in the human body — white fat and brown fat.
What's white fat?
White fat, or white adipose tissue, is what increases your risk for Type 2 diabetes and contributes to obesity.
What's brown fat?
Brown fat is a dark-colored adipose tissue with many blood vessels, involved in the rapid production of heat in hibernating animals and human babies.
Since brown fat is much less nefarious, it burns it as energy to help maintain your body temperature — boosting your metabolism.
4.) You'll Be Able to Go Farther
The heat drains you of energy and being too cold forces your heart to work hard. According to a study published from the University of Aberdeen's medical school, the ideal temperature for improving your endurance is 50ºF. Any warmer, and your heart is going to have to work harder to maintain that same intensity level, leading to fatigue.
Another study suggests that cooler temperatures correspond to a slower rise in your body temperature. This can also delay fatigue, leading to better performance.
5.) Cold Weather Can Strengthen Your Immune System
We all know that exercise helps ward off illness during this nasty cold and flu season.
A study published at the National Institutes of Health suggests that “physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu or other illness.”
6.) No More Allergies
Depending on where you live and what you are allergic to, for most of us, the worst symptoms occur during the spring and summer months.
Exercising in cooler weather means you'll experience fewer allergy symptoms, which means you can breathe and feel better.
7.) You Won't Sweat as Much
We know when it's hot as the sun outside that we sweat, but a researcher at St. Mary's University went on to quantify things for us.
They found a run performed in warm weather, about 72ºF, accounted for a 38% increase in sweat loss over a run in 46ºF weather.
Since all of those fluids need to be replaced, it's easy to get dehydrated, so carry extra fluid or be sure to stop for water breaks. In colder weather you won't sweat as much, making staying hydrated a much easier task.
8.) Exercise Combats Seasonal Depression
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is linked to fall and winter. Do you feel more depressed and anxious during the dark, cold months?
Exercise can help.
The increase in serotonin and endorphins will flood your body with feel-good chemicals. Exercising outside makes you feel better due to exposure to the sun.
Read more about how exercise can affect seasonal depression.
9.) Vitamin D
Being deficient in vitamin D can cause a lot of issues, but getting out into the sun helps. While the daylight gets shorter and shorter, it's hard to make time to get outside and breathe the fresh air.
In fact, it's our natural inclination to have a couch-induced hibernation.
Getting out into the sun will soak up the sun and improve your vitamin D levels. This will improve your mood, energy levels, immune system, and your bone health.
10.) You Maintain a Healthier Fitness Level Year-Round
A lot of us like to take a hiatus from exercise during the winter months. Some of us like to call it a bulk season, when in reality it's a "sit on your butt" season.
Exercising year-round will give you the edge on your fitness levels, so hitting the gym hard in the spring won't be so bad. There won't be any winter-induced sluggishness, and you'll always be ready for suns-out-guns-out season.