As winter creeps up, the prospect of throwing on your runners to work out in the cold is sometimes far less appealing than staying inside with home comforts. However training in the cold provides an additional array of health and athletic benefits, enhancing the multitude of benefits that exercise provides. For an added incentive to get off the couch, read on to find out how training in the cold can enhance your health and well-being, and even boost your athletic performance this winter.
The mood-enhancing benefits of exercise are well documented, and of particular benefit during the colder months with fewer daylight hours. A reduction in vitamin D – which we assimilate mostly through sunlight – is a main cause of the so-called ‘winter blues’. Although heading outside to train may not feel like the most appealing thing when it’s cold outside, the endorphins released through exercise will make it well worth the effort. Research at Duke University in the US found that cardio exercise markedly increases levels of serotonin in the brain, and discovered that cardio exercise is four times more effective at reducing symptoms of depression than antidepressant drugs.
Training during the winter is the best way to bolster your immune system and defend yourself against seasonal colds and flu. A study by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research discovered that regular outdoors exercise in the cold reduced the risk of flu susceptibility by 20-30%.
Getting the heart and blood pumping is of excellent benefit to your circulation and heart health, and these affects are heightened in cold weather. Training in the cold is excellent for protecting against heart disease, and general heart health.
Whilst all exercise and athletic endeavour boost the metabolism, researchers have found that training in the cold yields a higher metabolic increase. As the body has to expend additional energy to stay warm, exercise in the cold yields a higher calorific expenditure, and has a particular effect on brown fat cells (an energy-burning fat commonly found in athletes and those with a high lean muscle ratio.) This is particularly welcome news in the season of winter comfort food!
Many find that training in cold weather places greater pressure on breath – and this is a good thing. A study by Northern Arizona University found that training in cold weather helps train your lungs and whole body to utilise oxygen more efficiently, which helps boost your overall athletic performance. The researchers found that regular training in cold weather had the potential to add an average of 29% to athletes running speed.