Why winter workouts are good for you

Grab your shoes and head outdoors -why a cold winter workout can be so good for your health.

Cooler, winter weather often makes us feel lethargic, making the thought of going outside rather unappealing.

But before you curl up with a cuppa and your latest book, consider the benefits of getting out and about as the mercury drops.

Apart from avoiding the winter muffin-top gain, there are numerous benefits to exercising outside in the cold.

1 – outdoor workouts are a great way to get your daily dose of vitamin D (yes, you still need sunscreen, especially in our mild Sydney winters)

2 – winter workouts can boost your immunity as others fall prey to colds and flu.  A few minutes a day can help prevent simple bacterial and viral infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

3 – shivering – your internal heat producer – burns about 5 times more calories compared to when you’re at rest

4 – being out in the cold can transform white fat, specifically belly and thigh fat, into calorie-burning beige or brown fat, regardless of the type of exercise (this is similar to the cold shower effect – click here to read more about that).  Brown fat burns calories to generate heat, making it a “good” fat that burns rather than stores calories.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed people have more genetic markers for brown fat in the winter than during the warmer months. This could signal slightly more calorie burn in the winter as the body insulates itself.

5 – There is no heat and humidity to deal with in colder weather. Winter’s chill might even make you feel awake and invigorated.

6 – In the cold, your body can regulate its temperature a little better. This means you can often exercise for longer; therefore, you can potentially burn even more calories.

7 – Exercising in extreme temperatures, hot or cold, has shown the ability to enhance endurance and mental edge.

However, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and proper safety precautions before venturing out.

The Mayo Clinic provides numerous tips for staying safe during your cold-weather exercise:

Winter fitness: Safety tips for exercising outdoors

Whilst our Sydney winters aren’t extreme, here are some precautions to take when heading out in colder climates:

Check weather conditions 

Check the weather forecast before heading out. Temperature, wind and moisture, along with the length of time that you’ll be outside, are key factors in planning a safe cold-weather workout.

Check the wind chill

Wind and cold combined make up the wind chill, a common element in winter weather forecasts. Wind chill extremes can make exercising outdoors unsafe even with warm clothing.

Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation.

Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature. Symptoms include intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. Seek emergency help right away for possible hypothermia.

Dress in layers

Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat and then put back on as needed. 

Protect your head, hands, feet and ears

When it’s cold, blood flow is concentrated in your body’s core, leaving your head, hands and feet vulnerable to frostbite. Make sure to cover vulnerable areas.

Don’t forget safety gear — and sunscreen

Make sure to wear adequate protection. Such as, if it’s dark when you exercise outside, wear reflective clothing. Wear a helmet while skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. It is also important to apply sunscreen.  

Drink plenty of fluids

Hydration is just as important during cold weather as it is in the heat. Drink water or sports drinks before, during and after your workout, even if you’re not really thirsty.

Know your surroundings

Know your surroundings and the nearest evacuation route in case you need heat.

(Tips pulled from Mayo Clinic

Summer vs winter workout preparations differ:

As always, good nutrition and hydration are key.

In warmer weather, your body will adapt to the heat, whereas it doesn’t do that in the cold.

In the cold, your blood vessels constrict more vigorously and earlier and you start to shiver.  This is where layering your clothes becomes important – you can remove a layer as you start to sweat and put it back on when you cool down.

In extreme cold, hyperthermia can be a concern and regardless of temperature, it’s always important to protect yourself from sun exposure.

Asthma suffers can be more prone to attacks in the colder weather as the cold air hits the lungs – check with your doctor before heading out.

So rather than curling up indoors, head outside for an invigorating workout

  • it’ll warm you up
  • it’ll give you energy
  • it’ll help you maintain your health and fitness gains from the summer
  • you can burn more calories

Check out our timetable and come join us this winter!