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6 Benefits for Exercising in the Cold

It’s the new year, a time when we take stock of the previous year and start making goals for the upcoming year. The top of everyone’s list, is getting healthier, losing weight and or exercising more. The weather makes this more difficult as January and February turns colder, keeping people inside. Gyms, exercise classes, in-home workout videos, walking at the mall are great alternative options. Yet, I would encourage those who prefer not to stay inside to reconsider exercising outdoors. Read below for 6 little known benefits for exercising outside.

6 Benefits for Exercising in the Cold/Winter

  1. Increases your Vitamin D Production: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs most often in the winter months. It results in increased lethargy, overeating, and social withdrawal. One of the proposed causes of SAD is Vit D deficiency which is linked with depression. An easy way to increase Vitamin D production is through exposure to sunlight.
  2. Boosts immunity during the flu season: The CDC states that even slightly increasing your amount/level of exercise can prevent simple bacterial and viral infections. Exercise boosts the rigor of your immune system by promoting good circulation and cardiovascular health. Also, most health experts agree that winter is “cold and flu season” not because of the temperature, but because people spend more time indoors and more frequently being exposed to more people and their germs.
  3. Shivering increases calorie burn 5x more than resting. It is a small benefit, but hey let’s take what we can get.
  4. Colder temps activate more brown fat production for weight loss: What is brown fat? Brown fat is used for burning rather than storing, and is activated in response to cold. A study showed that people who spent 2 hours a work day in colder temperature (62.6 degrees) had lower body fat at the end of 6 weeks.  Researchers attribute this reduction in fat to the body making more brown fat to be used, rather than other fat types to be stored. 
  5. You don’t have to deal with heat/humidity
  6. Increase your mental edge: Exercising in more extreme conditions improves overall endurance and mental edge, helping you to exercise longer increasing your fitness and/or weight loss. 

Exercising in the cold does have some risks, and dressing appropriately is important. Dress in layers so as you warm up you can take layers off as needed. Also as you cool down after exercise, return indoors or put the layers back on. Always check the weather before you go. If it is going to sleet or the temperature is significantly low, maybe take a rain check or make sure you are dressed appropriately. Cover your hands, head, face, and ears. For the first time, take it easy. Stay close to home and monitor how your body responds during and after you exercise. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your physician or Action Potential in order to get you moving safely again.