Your New Year’s resolution is probably calling to lose weight and get in shape in 2019, so crawl out from under that blanket and reap the rewards of a cold weather workout! Many of us put our regular exercise routines on hold during the holidays, but here are a few reasons to get motivated this winter to keep exercising.
First, according to research in Environmental Science and Technology, outdoor exercise can increase your energy and decrease tension, frustration, and depression along with greater enjoyment and satisfaction of the activity. These effects are intensified in the winter because your body has to work harder to exercise in cold weather which releases an increase in endorphin hormones and adds an invigorating boost to your body.
Second, the outdoor exercise also helps you breathe more fresh air and exposes you to natural light and vitamin D. Many people often lack exposure to natural light during the shorter, days of winter, which can even lead to seasonal affective disorder or the ‘winter blues’ for some.
Third, you can burn more calories in the winter! Research has found that the body will burn more energy when adjusting to cooler temperature changes, especially when we shiver. Some studies have also shown that race times are faster in cold weather and quicker runs can burn more calories. Now that you’re convinced to get moving with a winter workout, it’s important to remember a few safety recommendations from our Physical Therapy department staff, so it can continue to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
- Know Your Route– Try to pick a route that is plowed, well lit, has cover for wind protection, and has stable, safe footing. Try a small neighborhood loop you can repeat and if you become tired, slip, or get wet, you will still be close to home.
- Be Flexible– You may be a morning exerciser, but on extremely cold days, your best option is go in the mid-afternoon, when temps are at their highest and paths are plowed.
- Dress for Success– It’s important to wear thin layers of clothes to keep your core warm and cover your head and extremities to prevent heat loss or frostbite.
- Warm Up Wisely- Stretch and walk around indoors for five minutes, and when you head out, give your body time to adjust to conditions by taking short breaks.
- Start Small– If you normally walk or jog four miles in the summer, start with two. It’s safer and better to ease into your workout to acclimate.
- Drink Up– You still sweat in the winter, so even if you don’t feel it as immediately as in the hot summer months, remember to stay hydrated!
- Cool Down– To avoid getting too chilled during your cool down, keep it brief and slow your pace for the final minutes, then go inside to stretch.
There is such a thing as too bad of weather to exercise and you should stay indoors if you have to battle increased winds, snow, ice, or darkness because there are just too many challenges set against you. So, whether you’re walking or jogging in your neighborhood, snowshoeing the trails, or taking a trip to the slopes, it’s time get prepared and start enjoying your winter workouts and reaping the added health benefits!