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12 Days of Fitness 2016: Day 5 – Benefits of Exercising in Winter – Outdoors!

December 15, 2016 0 Comments

(This is Part 5 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

There are many benefits to exercising outdoors during the winter months.  It’s real easy to use the weather as an excuse to not get outside and get it done (or any other excuse to not exercise at all). Instead of hibernating during the winter months and waiting for “ideal” conditions you may want to consider getting outside for a winter workout.  Here are some benefits to getting outdoors:

  • Strengthens the heart. Exercising in the cold can help to improve your cardiovascular endurance. Being in colder climates makes the heart work harder to distribute blood flow throughout the body to keep it warm.  Because of the body having to work harder to keep warm, you might be burning extra calories and have a more effective workout. As always, make sure to get your doctor’s approval before exercising in the cold.
  • Improved immunity. Regular exercising has been shown to improve your immune system, which could help protect you against viruses that seem to pop up more during the winter months.  By working out outside you can avoid those inter-office or gym germs.  It is a misconception that staying indoors will help you avoid a cold when in fact you are more likely to pick up illnesses indoors.
  • Beats the blues. One of the best ways to beat the winter blues or handle “seasonal disorder” is by getting outdoors. Even a few minutes a day exercising outdoors can help keep those blue feelings at bay.  If you can get outside during daylight hours you will help your body produce vitamin D that so many are deficient of during the winter months.  A nice dose of vitamin D has been shown to improve mood.
  • Enhances mood. When the body is working hard to stay warm, it will produce endorphins that will trigger dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters that help boost your mood and make you feel good.

There are numerous health benefits to a cold-weather workout, but you must also take some precautions when exercising outdoors in the cold.  Falling on ice, hypothermia, dehydration and exposure to strong winds and snow are some of the hazards that working out indoors does not present.

  • Use good judgment, if it’s raining or snowing to the point where you are constantly wet or if the windchill is 10 degrees Fahrenheit with high winds, it may be dangerous to be outdoors for too long.
  • Be aware of how your body reacts to the cold.  If you have severe shivering or numbness it would be a good idea to head back inside.
  • Make sure you stay hydrated, you might not feel like you’re getting dehydrated because of the conditions.  Studies have shown that people who exercise in the cold may find it suppresses their thirst, it is important to keep those fluids going.
  • Use sunscreen and lip balm.  Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean that you can’t get sunburn.  UVA rays can penetrate through even on cloudy days causing skin damage.
  • Layer up; making sure the layer closest to the skin is a moisture-wicking fabric.  When you begin sweating fabrics like cotton will retain moisture making you even colder.  Layer according to how cold it is and make sure that the top layer is waterproof.  Keep exposed areas of your body covered.

Be aware of the risks associated with a cold-weather workout, especially if you experience heart or respiratory problems.  If you are careful and take the necessary precautions, there is no reason to not exercise outdoors during the winter months.

See you tomorrow for Day 6 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better


Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day 1 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight
Day 2 – 5 Ways You’re Self-Sabotaging Your Workouts
Day 3 – 10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself
Day 4 – Never Diet Again!

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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