Exercising in Cold Weather Not as Miserable as We Believe

Exercising during cold weather can seem like an impossible challenge. When it’s freezing cold outside and you have the option of going outside and exercising, or staying in your warm house, most will choose the second option.

Yet, studies show that exercising during cold weather has many benefits for both children and adults, and if done properly and safely, anybody can maintain their health despite the cold weather.

Exercising during cold weather can leave you feeling invigorated and energized. According to psychiatrist Norman E. Rosenthal, winter can bring on what’s known as, ‘seasonal affective disorder’. Rosenthal shares, “part of what makes people so miserable during the winter is being confined.” Going outside — despite the cold weather — and being active can help fight the feelings of tiredness, depression, or angst. Not only are you getting your heart rate up, but you are taking in more Vitamin D. Dr. Rosenthal explains the advantages of getting that sunlight, “The greater the light in your environment, the more serotonin release in the brain — and that is known to be a very potent mood regulator.”

There are physical benefits to exercising in the cold weather as well. Exercising in cold weather takes more effort and exertion, therefore you burn more calories. If you’re an avid athlete who is running, cycling, or swimming at a training level, “you will burn 10-40 percent more calories in cold weather than in warm weather,” according to Jo Zimmerman, a kinesiology instructor at the University of Maryland.

Understandably there are some risks that come along with exercising in the cold such as dehydration, hypothermia, or slipping on ice. If you have a heart or lung condition, be mindful of exercising in the cold weather.

There are solutions for these risks. Make sure you dress in layers, but avoid cotton, which traps moisture and can make you feel colder. American Heart Association recommends using clothing that wicks moisture away (like the newer high-performance fabrics) for your first layer; fleece for the second; and then a thin, waterproof outer layer.

Remember, exercising in the cold can eliminate thirst, but that doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need water. Instead of using cold water, try filling up you water bottle with hot water and throw a tea bag in. It keeps you hydrated without needing to drink cold water on your cold run.

When you’re done with your workout make sure you get home and warm up. It might be tough to get out there at first but there are some great benefits to working out in the cold, so go out take a walk, go sledding with your kids, or go on a run and keep your energy up this winter!

For more cold-weather exercise facts, tips and healthy recipes, please check out American Heart Association’s Cold Weather Fitness Guide.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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