5 Tips for Cold Weather Workouts

Article posted in: Fitness

Whether ice skating, snowboarding or shoveling, snow and cold weather presents opportunities to move in different ways. New to snowboarding? Or skiing? Even better: Every time you learn something new, you’re stimulating and exercising your brain, which prevents cognitive decline, says Harvard Health.

A change in your workout or activities can also challenge your body, work new muscles and burn fat. For example, shoveling snow is a whole-body workout: legs, arms, core, back, shoulders. According to Harvard Health, shoveling for just 30 minutes can burn up to 223 calories in a 155-pound person (Just be careful not to overdo it!).

Winter weather workouts are also said to affect the specific types of fat you carry. There are two types of fat stored in the body. White fat is created when the body has to store extra calories as energy and typically accumulates around our bellies and hips, according to Medical News Today. Brown fat is usually found around the neck area and its purpose is to generate heat for the body by quickly burning calories.

Researchers think that cold weather exercise transforms white fat, specifically belly and thigh fat, into calorie-burning brown fat, says Harvard Health. According to Medical News Today, those with higher levels of brown fat also take longer to start shivering in chilly temperatures. When brown fat cells are active, you burn calories—250 more than you would otherwise, according to a January 2012 study in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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Want to make the most of all your cold weather efforts? Here are a few ideas for your winter workouts:

1. Embrace the Energy

cold weather

Harvard Health explains that cold weather improves endurance. The heart doesn’t have to work as hard during cold weather exercise, decreasing sweat and causing you to use less energy. This means you can exercise more efficiently in cooler temps. Plus, cold weather is invigorating. When you might have stopped to rest before—either because of heat or exhaustion—you might want to run up that hill after all to stay warm and because you feel like you have the energy.

2. Take Time to Stretch

cold weather

When it’s cold, the body burns energy to stay warm and decreases blood circulation to protect your internal organs, says Harvard Health. This increases the risk of tearing a muscle or injuring your body, causing the need to stretch before tackling the cold.

Take time to stretch before and after exercise. Mayo Clinic recommends warming up with walking or jogging for about five minutes prior to stretching to prevent injuring cold muscles. Dynamic stretches that allow movement, such as arm circles, arm swings and lunges, are a great way to increase circulation, stretch and warm up for your workout, says Harvard Health.

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3. Layer Up

cold weather

The human body is a lot like a furnace. It’s constantly producing heat and then dispersing it throughout the body. During exercise, heat is produced from working muscle contractions. When the body’s core temperature is too high, it creates sweat to cool itself, says Healthline. Even if it’s freezing—or below freezing—outside, it’s possible to overheat if you’re wearing too many layers, explains the Texas Heart Institute.

Wear breathable, lightweight synthetic fabrics that wick away moisture, as recommended by the University of Rochester Medical Center. The goal is to prevent sweating, so you aren’t chilled when sweat (rapidly) evaporates. Your feet will get cold first, explains the Texas Heart Institute, so wear warm socks and keep your feet dry. Your hands will also get chilly quickly so wear gloves or mittens. Most importantly, wear a hat or hood, as up to 50% of your body heat can escape from your head.

4. Don’t Forget to Hydrate


Less sweat means less water, right? Nope. You may be sweating less in the cold but if you can see your breath, you’re losing fluids and you need to drink water (even if you’re not thirsty!), explains Harvard Health. The South Beach Diet recommends drinking half of your body weight in ounces of fluid each day. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should drink 100 ounces of water per day. However, please note that this is just a recommendation and you may need more or less fluid based on your activity level or other factors. Speak to your doctor to ensure you are hydrating properly for your specific needs.

Drinking hot water is a great way to warm up your core temperature if your outdoor exercise chilled you to the bone. Hot tea and coffee also count towards your daily hydration, just hold the sugar and mind the serving sizes of milk or cream.

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5. Embrace the Sun

cold weather

Many Northerners are often afflicted with the wintertime blues. This may be due to the fact they’re not getting enough Vitamin D from the sun, says Medical News Today. Even bundled up, you can soak in some Vitamin D and improve your mood after just 15 minutes. Morning light is best if your schedule allows, as it seems to lower individuals body mass index, according to a study published in PLoS One. Go for a morning walk or jog to soak up some sun and get your daily exercise before it gets dark.

*Always speak with a doctor before starting an exercise routine.