Advantages of Cold Weather Work-Outs

Giving yourself a dose of fresh air can work wonders for your health – no matter what the weather outside is like. Exercising outdoors can give you an energy boost. It can also help fight stress and keep depression away – even depression that comes from winter-related seasonal affective disorder. A recent report in Environmental Science and Technology offers scientific evidence to back these ideas up. Many fitness experts feel that working out in cold weather tends to be easier than any other season, too. To work out in cold air can stimulate and invigorate. Heat, on the other hand, has the effect of draining you and tiring you out.

You get better fitness results for your trouble in cold weather

Exercise raises your body’s supply of endorphins. These hormones help you feel better. The energy that you invest in working out in the winter tends to be far higher, too. Your body needs to work harder to attain a given level of performance when it’s cold. This translates to higher endorphin production. In other words, working out in cold weather has the potential to fill you with more positive energy – than at any other time of the year.

If you are working out to lose weight, the higher level of work that your body needs to put in translates to a faster calorie burn. Sports researchers have found that competitive athletes perform better in the winter. Champion sprinters, for instance, routinely record faster times when they race in the winter (this finding is reported in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise). In view of this it certainly is ironic that the Olympics should be held in the summer.

It is settled then … cold weather is good

If you are serious about losing weight and becoming fit, there is no better way than to do it when it’s cold outside. If you need to throw yourself out of bed each morning to make it happen, so be it. Certainly, focused cold-weather workouts – jogging outside or working out to a fitness DVD out in the garden (or the balcony of your apartment) – is the best way to make use of the fitness advantage that the low temperatures of winter give you. If nothing else, you could consider unfocused workouts – shoveling snow or doing other yard work, walking the dog and so on.

Choosing your cold weather exercise method

If it snows where you live, doing your winter workout to a workout video in the safety of your garden could be the best way to go. Running on slippery sidewalks could conceivably lead to slip-and-fall accidents.

If you do decide to pound the pavement, you need to map your winter running route out carefully. You should go around your neighborhood a day after it snows to look for streets and sidewalks that are well-maintained. You want to look for streets that are well-plowed and kept clear. Good lighting is important, too – so that you can spy any black ice and stay safe. It is usually a good idea to find a circuit or loop on the streets near your home. This way, should you slip and fall one day or get wet, you can quickly come back home before you catch a cold.

Doing it the right way in the cold

Working out in cold weather, you need to seriously plan the warm-up phase well. Diving in headfirst without giving your body time to prepare can result in injury. Easing your body into each workout day is easy. It just takes a little patience. Workout videos always include warm-ups. If you plan to run, 20 minutes spent jogging in place should be adequate warming up. Once you get going on your running circuit, you should take breaks over the first half hour –running only 10 minutes at a time.

Whether you plan to run outside or move to an exercise DVD in the safety of your own home, you need to remember to dress warm. While it’s clear to most people that they shouldn’t put on too little, they aren’t often aware that dressing too heavily could be risky as well. You could quickly work up a sweat and have the perspiration chill you.

In general, cotton clothing isn’t a good idea. Use fabric that wicks up moisture next to your skin. A fleece jacket on top of this should offer all the cold weather protection you need. If it’s extra cold outside – if it’s snowing or raining, for instance – you could need to wear a waterproof shell over the fleece jacket.

The legs tend to be quite resistant to cold weather. Still, it could be an idea to wear a couple of layers. You could try running tights next to your skin and fleece-lined running track pants on top of them. In bitterly cold weather, you should protect your airways with a scarf or muffler, too.

It’s often best to start slow. If you are running, do no more than a couple of miles to begin. Doing this for a week before intensifying your workout could help your body acclimatize to the weather and to the workout.

Of course, the commonsense rules that you would apply to any exercise routine apply here as well. You need to make sure that you are medically fit enough for the exercise that you plan.

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