If cold water swimming, cold showers, or ice baths do not
appeal, you can still get the benefits of the cold by exercising outside in the
Do not put off by the cold weather. Getting outside to
exercise brings additional benefits.
1. You will not get uncomfortably hot and sweaty.
Summer may have its pluses, but the heat and humidity can
derail the best exercise plans. “When you exercise in the cold, you can potentially
push yourself harder and exercise longer or with more intensity without having
to stop due to getting too hot or sweating too much,” says Dr Cara Ocobock, an
anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame in the US.
2. You will burn more calories.
Exercising in the cold will burn more calories but not
because you are cold, says Dr Ocobock, as you tend to warm up when you are
exercising. It is because it allows you to exercise longer without overheating.
There is also evidence that exercising in cold weather helps to turn the white
fat we use for energy storage into brown fat, which stimulates our metabolism
and helps to burn calories.
3. You will feel more alert. Being in the cold can activate
the fight or flight response, releasing hormones like adrenaline and increasing
your sense of alertness, says Dr Paul Gallo of Colombia University. Fans of
cold water swimming often report how their mood lifts after their plunge in icy
water, but you can get the same effect after a brisk walk on a chilly morning.
4. It is good for keeping colds away.
Exercise of any type at any time of year is good for your
immunity, and in the winter months this is important for fighting off the common
cold, COVID-19, and any other opportunistic infections.
Another reason to get out your walking boots and explore
your city in winter is the wind. Wind disperses pollution and rain washes the
air of dirt and germs, says Annabel Streets, author of 52 Ways to Walk: The
Surprising Science of Walking for Wellness and Joy, One Week at a Time. She
points to a 2021 study that found the best days to avoid catching COVID-19 were
windy days, when germs and bacteria were instantly blown away.
5. Your heart will thank you.
Your heart benefits from a cold weather workout thanks to something
called vasoconstriction, says Dr Gallo. “This results in the heart having to
work harder to pump blood to the muscles, especially if you are doing aerobic
activity like cycling or running.” Anything that strengthens your heart is a
smart move, with cardiovascular disease being one of the top causes of death
and disability. But always make sure to chat to your GP before starting an exercise
program, particularly if you have cardiovascular disease.