There are many benefits of exercising in the winter, from our physical health and improving our fitness to our mental health and protection from seasonal sickness.
It may come as no surprise to you that there are so many benefits to exercising in the cold. Unfortunately, the activities that are most difficult for us are often the most useful. This is certainly the case here, and the unpleasant properties of cold are among the main reasons why it is so good for us.
So if you are looking for motivation to exercise in cold weather and how to wake up early in winter, Here it is. “British winters can make it extremely daunting to get outside and exercise, but as long as you’re wrapped up in the right exercise clothes, getting that all-important fresh air will be of great importance, both physically and mentally,” he says. David Wienerpersonal trainer and AI-based fitness and lifestyle coaching app expert Freeletics. With winter here, here’s what doctors and personal trainers want you to know.
Benefits of exercising in winter
1. Stronger immune system
It is not news that our immune system often bears the brunt of weather changes. We just have to watch our own gut health in winter see that. However, exercise has been shown time and time again to improve the immune system, putting it under just enough pressure to fire it up in cold weather.
“During the winter, our immune systems become weaker, which means that infections and viruses are more common. One of the benefits of exercising in the winter is that our immune system works harder to defend itself against the elements and, in turn, helps our bodies fight off infections.” ”, says an NHS GP Dr Hana Patel.
Research from Appalachian State University shows that moderate-to-vigorous exercise for an hour or less is best for reaping the immune-boosting benefits. Where possible, it should be more LISS cardio and Running 80/20 however, according to the same research, high-intensity training over a longer period of time has been shown to suppress the immune system.
dr. Hana Patel is a senior NHS GP and academic lecturer with a special interest in women’s health, mental health and sleep. She is also sought after for her expertise and opinion as a forensic medical GP, both in the UK and abroad.
2. Better lung function
If you’ve ever been out for a run on a cold morning and struggled to breathe, contrary to what you may feel, that’s actually a good thing. As cold air is usually drier and has lower humidity, it can help improve lung function.
“Exercising in cold weather can challenge your respiratory system and increase its efficiency over time. This can be especially beneficial for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions, as it can lead to improved lung health and better overall endurance,” he says. Amanda Placecertified personal trainer and founder Sculpture.
Award-winning personal trainer Amanda Place is the founder of Sculptrition, a platform that helps you ditch fad diets, find balance, and create a healthy lifestyle.
She specializes in health and fitness coaching for high-achieving women, helping them transform their body and mind, improve their health and become the best version of themselves.
3. Exercising in the cold can help transform harmful fats
There are two different types of fat in the human body: white fat and brown fat. Studies from Qilu Shandong University Hospital show that too much white fat around the belly and thighs can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and metabolic diseases. Brown fat breaks down glucose in the body and fat molecules and helps us stay at a good body temperature.
When we exercise in the cold, Dr. Patel and Place explain, the activity turns the white fat in those areas into brown fat. As further research by Garvan Institute for Medical Research reveals, there are two hormones stimulated by cold weather – irisin and FGF21. These hormones activate the fat cells and emit heat, which is a clear sign of the brown adipose tissue at work.
“Shivering, a natural response to cold, increases calorie expenditure and engages more muscle groups,” says Place. “The energy required for thermogenesis in brown fat, which is more active in the cold, also contributes to increased calorie burning.”
4. You will be exposed to fresh air
There’s no denying it, it’s hard wake up early in the morning in winter. With the windows covered in frost and darkness beginning the day, the idea of leaving the bed – let alone the house – is not very appealing.
But the fresh air makes a real difference, and that’s one of the key benefits of exercising in the winter, Wiener says, and other experts agree. “Getting outside and moving your body will help increase your feel-good endorphins. Whether it’s a brisk walk or a quick HIIT workout, it will help regulate your appetite by temporarily suppressing ghrelin (our hunger hormone), as well as improving your mood and reducing the risk of stress.” It is one of the main ones the benefits of walking in general too.
When it comes to choosing what to wear, the personal trainer says to “look for clothing that wicks away moisture, heat and wind to keep you warm and dry.” For example, par best workout leggingsa warm base layer and a windproof jacket.
David Wiener is a certified personal trainer, advanced nutritionist, lifestyle coach and fitness writer. It works with Freeletics, an artificial intelligence-based fitness and lifestyle coaching app.
5. It can help improve your heart health
Even just standing in the cold makes the body pump more blood around the body to warm us up. Regardless of whether you are going for a full run or just awareness running meditationthrowing any type of exercise into the mix will make your body work twice as hard, improving overall cardiovascular health.
6. Reduces the risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is common in winter because there are fewer hours of daylight, says Dr. Patel. Typically, symptoms include low self-esteem, extra feelings of stress and anxiety, tearfulness, and feelings of irritability.
Learning how to fight the US is a yearly process for those struggling with the condition, but regular exercise can really help, says the doctor. “Exercising in the winter will help you get more exposure to sunlight, which can help relieve symptoms.”
Is it good to exercise in cold weather?
Yes, there are some key benefits of cold-weather exercise—like increased fat-burning rates, improved mood, and better lung function—that aren’t available during the warmer months of the year. “Not only will moving more keep you healthy,” says Dr. Patel, “it can also keep you warm during the colder winter months.” So there are both long-term and short-term benefits of exercising in the winter.
“If possible, the NHS recommends that we try to move at least once an hour a day in winter,” she adds. “If you’re unsure about exercising outside in cold weather, I’d recommend talking to your GP. Exercising in cold weather is safe for most people, but if you have certain conditions, such as asthma or heart problems, it’s a good idea to review any special precautions that you need to take based on your condition or medication.”
Do you burn more calories working out in the cold?
Yes, if weight loss is one of your exercise goals for the winter and you want to learn how to lose weight without exercise too much, you’re lucky. “When you exercise in the cold, you’ll burn more calories because your body has to work a lot harder to keep your body temperature regulated,” says Wiener.
“Furthermore, while the body is doing its best to stay warm, it will kick your metabolism into full swing, resulting in more calories burned,” he says. “Another thing to consider is that if you’re walking in windy weather, you’ll be expending more energy walking through the wind compared to if it wasn’t windy. This will essentially make the wind just an extra level of intensity for your workout, which will help burn more calories.” Ankle weights? You don’t need it when it’s windy outside.
However, personal trainer Place cautions, “Actual calorie burn can vary depending on factors such as exercise intensity and duration, environmental conditions, and clothing choice. Although cold weather workouts offer this calorie-burning advantage, it’s important to exercise safely by dressing appropriately, staying hydrated and awareness of the possible risks associated with extreme cold.”
Tips for exercising in cold weather
- Make sure you have the right kit: In order to experience all the benefits of exercising in winter, you need the right equipment. “Kit is especially important when it comes to staying motivated during the colder months. Investing in high-quality cold-weather exercise gear can make a big difference to your comfort and motivation,” says Weiner. For example, you might want to decide on a couple the best running shoes for wetter climates if you go outside and study how to keep your feet warm with insulating socks.
- Warm up properly: “Dynamic stretching is a more active type of pre-workout stretch, meaning you’ll be performing a movement as you stretch, rather than staying in the same position,” he says. “This type of warm-up will get the blood going to the larger muscle groups and get the nervous system going.”
- Find the target: “Whether it’s improving strength, running a certain distance, or maintaining your current fitness level, goals to work toward can keep you motivated,” says Place.
- Create a workout schedule: “Plan your workouts ahead of time and stick to a regular schedule. Treat exercise appointments with the same importance as any other commitment, and you’ll be more likely to stick to them,” she says. That way, you can get the most out of exercising in the winter at a time that suits you.
- But be flexible: “Adapt your workouts to shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures,” she says. “Exercise in the morning or at lunchtime during the winter, for example.”
Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GORE-TEX – £144.95
Available in six different colors and a wide selection of sizes, the Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GORE-TEX is a great weatherproof option for outdoor training this winter. These running shoes have responsive cushioning with a waterproof GORE-TEX layer and ankle cuffs to keep your feet warm and dry.
Seal Skinz Bircham All Weather Waterproof Socks – £26.40
Bircham by Seal Skinz is a waterproof, windproof and breathable ankle sock, ideal for keeping your toes toasty and dry in the colder months. Each pair has a three-layer construction that combines a 100% waterproof hydrophilic membrane with a Merino wool interior. Also available in multiple colors.
Nike Dri-FIT Women’s Running Jacket – £89.95
The newly released Nike Dri-Fit Women’s Running Jacket is made from super-smooth, sweat-wicking fabric that’s perfect for running, and the all-over reflective print is a stylish yet practical addition that won’t let you be seen. For those colder days there are secure pockets for your essentials and a pull-on hood.
However, exercising in cold weather is not for everyone. While there are so many benefits of exercise for our mental health, even if it’s just a short walk around the corner, don’t be too discouraged if you just can’t make it motivation to exercise one or two mornings. It’s not the end of the world, says Wiener.
“If you miss a workout, don’t let it derail your progress, just get back to it the next day. Sometimes it’s just going to be too cold to exercise outside or go for a walk, and that’s okay.”