With the holidays in the rearview mirror, you may find that the scale is adding a few extra pounds. Whether it’s the endless helpings of food or the frigid weather, many adults tend to experience weight gain during this time of year. In fact, people move about 11 fewer minutes per day in the winter than in the summer. While many race to the gym to shed the extra pounds, you may want to consider moving your exercise outdoors.
A cold weather workout may actually prove beneficial to both your physical and mental health.
- You can burn more calories. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, cold weather helps transform fat typically found in the belly and thighs into calorie-burning fat. This means that working out in low temperatures could make it easier for you to burn more calories quicker.
- Shivering causes your muscles to work harder than normal and may allow you to exercise longer. A study published in the Cell Metabolism journal discovered that cold weather can cause you to shiver, which actually makes your muscles work harder than normal. Shivering is the process that occurs when your muscles rapidly contract in order to raise your body temperature. When that happens, it may even allow you to exercise longer and potentially burn more calories, according to the American Heart Association.
- It can make you feel more awake. The American Heart Association highlights that the lack of heat and humidity in the air can actually make you feel more awake and invigorated. This may allow you to improve the intensity and length of your workout.
- The sunlight can improve your mood. Winter often causes people to curl up indoors. But, even in the cold weather, it can be beneficial to venture outdoors. According to the American Heart Association, direct sunlight can not only increase your vitamin D intake but it can also directly improve your mood.
However, cold weather may also prove dangerous if you aren’t taking the necessary steps to dress and prepare accordingly.
Check weather conditions and wind chill.
To help prevent the risk of frostbite, you should work out indoors if the temperature dips below 0 degrees or if the wind chill is extreme. If wind chill reaches minus 18 degrees or below, frostbite can affect exposed skin in just 30 minutes or less. Frostbite is most common on your cheeks, nose and ears. Symptoms can include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation. If you experience any of these, you should immediately get indoors and warm up.
Dress in layers.
It’s recommended to wear multiple layers to remain warm while exercising in the cold weather, but be careful not to overdress. If you’re dressed too warmly and begin sweating, the evaporation of sweat will reduce your body heat and you will begin to feel cold. Instead, consider putting on a thin layer of synthetic material, followed by a layer of fleece or wool and then a waterproof outer layer.
Protect your hands, head, ears and feet.
Cold temperatures cause your blood flow to remain in the center of your body, leaving your upper-most and lower-most extremities vulnerable to frostbite. Consider wearing a thin pair of glove liners under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens to help protect your hands. If you begin sweating, remove the outer pair so the hands don’t become cold from the moisture. To keep your head, ears and feet warm, you may want to wear a hat or headband and thick socks or an extra pair of socks.
It can become harder to recognize if you’re thirsty in cold weather, so make sure you don’t forget to drink water or a sports drink before, during and after you work out. The combination of low temperatures and breathing in sharp winter air can cause you to become dehydrated quickly.
If you have certain conditions, such as asthma, Raynaud’s disease or heart issues, check with your doctor to see if you need to take any further precautions before working out in cold weather.