Although outdoor exercise seems like the last thing anyone wants to do in the winter, there are some surprising benefits you could be missing out on, explains personal trainer Walter Keating Jr. Here are six ways that getting outside for some exercise in those cold months is better for you than you might think.
Benefit #1. Banish those winter blues.
With the change of season, the landscape’s monochrome appearance, and eternal grey skies, it’s easier to slip into periods of depression that can bring you down. Taking the time to get out of the house and exercise (outside of a gym) not only combats seasonal sadness but can also help prevent it. Running releases endorphins that can ward off depression, reduce holiday stress, and even improve self-esteem.
Benefit #2. It’s easier than running in the summer.
Running in heat, especially when it’s humid, will make your body work harder than necessary to keep you cool. Sweating through your shirt in the summer might feel like you’ve got a good workout, but it’s harder on your body, so why limit exercise to these times? Weather that you must work against to keep yourself warm is not only easier on your body, but it can also make your run feel easier too.
Benefit #3. Chances are, you’ll have the street to yourself.
Unless you’re accustomed to running in the countryside, most runners share their tracks with children, dog walkers, and other runners. But who wants to leave their heated homes in the middle of winter? Running during off-seasons or other outdoor activities almost guarantees that you’ll have just a little more space to do what you need to do.
Benefit #4. Get more out of your workout.
With preoccupations about staying cool aside, you can finally take the time to tackle the big hills, the flights of stairs you’ve been avoiding, or higher levels of interval training. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish when you don’t feel like you’re about to pass out from the heat.
Benefit #5. Burn more calories.
In colder temperatures, your body has to work a lot harder to stay alive than it would in the summer. Even if you’re just standing outside, you’re automatically burning more calories than you would naturally in the summer. Factor this into running and a balanced diet, and maybe you’ll see the results you’ve been waiting on.
Benefit #6. Get more enjoyment out of your run
Warm-up and cool-down are essential in a winter run to avoid shocking your body and keeping your muscles happy. Maybe you’re out to set new records; perhaps you’re just out for a quick jog before work. Either way, there’s nothing more satisfying than taking the time to cool down and take in the landscape and what you’ve just accomplished.
However, even with the benefits of working out in the cold, safety precautions are just as important as ever.
Here are a few more tips to keep you safe and healthy.
- Although it’s okay to run with a cold if you’re feeling up to it, never exercise with a fever.
- Keep your head and hands warm, as they’re the first to get cold. Wear a hat, gloves, and extra socks if you can. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Stay seen. Running when daylight hours are limited might mean that you end up running in the dark. Wear protective gear and light colors to avoid accidents.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you don’t have to wear sunscreen. Especially in the snow, take precautions to make sure it’s not just the cold making your cheeks red.
- Avoid wearing cotton, as it retains moisture and can make you feel colder than you are.
With these tips in mind, head out into the world and run to your heart’s content, no matter the season.
About Walter Keating Jr.
Walter Keating Jr. is a Toronto-based fitness coach specializing in triathlon coaching and corrective exercise training. He graduated from the Fitness and Lifestyle Management Program at George Brown College and immediately started his professional career. Mr. Keating has worked as an endurance coach, personal trainer, spinning instructor, and corrective exercise trainer.