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5 Benefits of Exercising in Cold Weather

Did you know? There are actually extra benefits to exercising in the cold winter air?! 

As we explored in our article on cold water swimming – the mix of exercise and cold water has proven to have a range of scientifically-backed benefits such as: a release of dopamine (the body’s feel good hormone), an increased tolerance to stress, boost to mental endurance, decreasing inflammation, increased immunity and radiant skin! 

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Perhaps it almost makes you want to run outside and find the nearest beach! Numbers of cold water swimmers in the bay increased during lockdown, but the reality is it’s winter and you need to have built up your endurance over months for your body to feel readily adapted to winter temperatures. 

So for many of us, going for a jog, cycle, playing our favourite sport in the winter air is a much more realistic routine. But is exercising in cold weather, not just cold water, also extremely good for you? 

A BBC research team set out to explore the issue. They defined cold weather as 10 – 18 degrees, and discovered these 5 benefits:

  1. Cardiovascular benefits. Dr. Paul Gallo, professor at Colombia University, states that if we put ourselves into a cold environment the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the muscles, especially if we are doing aerobic activity such as cycling, running or swimming. However, cardiovascular benefits are not just to do with the environment, but with the intensity of the exercise, so cold stimulus is a great example of a stressor. 
  2. Improved focus. Exposure to the cold can trigger a fight or flight response which releases hormones such as adrenaline, increasing our sense of alertness and focus. 
  3. Increased Vitamin D. Stepping out into the sunlight, as opposed to working out in the gym, improves levels of Vitamin D, which increases immunity and decreases likelihood of anxiety and depression.
  4. Less body fatigue, improving performance. Working out in the cold also improves athletic performance as your body fatigues less quickly. There is less need for the body to expend energy metabolically to cool your system. 
  5. Increased metabolism. Preliminary studies have shown that exposure to the cold turns white fat into brown. Brown fat contributes to a higher metabolism. Exactly to what degree humans activate brown fat during exercise is still largely unknown. Watch this space! 

So cast your eyes away from Netflix and head outside! 

For more info check out this BBC reel: https://www.bbc.com/reel/video/p097ylw3/is-exercising-in-the-cold-good-for-you-