As we approach the colder part of the year some people tend to pull back on their outdoor activities. While it’s smart to take precautions near wet leaves and on icy roads and pathways, there are also benefits to keeping up with, or even starting a new outdoor exercise routine even in winter.
One of the benefits to taking to outdoor activity in the winter months is exposure to sunlight. Since there are less daylight hours when people are typically moving around outdoors, getting outside for some exercise gives you a double positive not just for your body, but that sunlight, yes, even on a cloudy day, will give your brain a positive charge. Especially if you tend to suffer from seasonal affective disorder which is a type of depression some people suffer during the winter months.
Some studies have shown that exercising in cold temperatures can transform white fat into calorie burning brown fat.
When you continually expose yourself to cold weather, the body learns to dial down its stress response. This is called cold habituation. Over time, fewer stress hormones get released into the bloodstream and you feel warmer. While there’s no proven performance benefits, the acclimation to the cold makes your time outdoors more enjoyable.
Now that you know the benefits to exercising outdoors in the colder months, here are some tips to help keep you safe and injury free.
This stems beyond cold weather workouts. Always warm up your muscles before engaging in exercise activities. If you’ll be running, start out with some static stretches, holding a stretch for about 45 seconds, to help warm up the leg muscles and start out with a minute or two walking to get yourself acclimated to the cold. And be sure to stretch at the end of your session as well.
Layers are your best friend out in the cold. You will warm up as you exercise, dressing in layers will allow you to unzip, take off a layer and stay warmer when needed. This will keep you more comfortable and that means a more enjoyable workout. Be sure to wear gloves and a hat and/or ear protectors. Trust us on that one, especially if it’s a windy day. Sunglasses help protect your eyes from sun glare, especially if there is snow on the ground.
Be sure to have the appropriate footwear for your activity. If you are going hiking, wear a hiking boot with ankle protection in case you get into some snow or mud. Not only will this keep your feet warmer, but it will also be more comfortable than having wet socks for the duration of your hike.
If you are running, have a properly fitted running shoe. This will help avoid injuries and be especially careful in the mornings when there may be ice on your path that is not visible.
Yes, even in winter you need to make sure you stay hydrated. You might not be as thirsty, but your body still needs the fluids so keep the water handy and take a sip now and then. If you are out hiking, be sure to pack a light snack as well so you can stay fueled up.
Exercising outdoors in winter can be a lot of fun and give you a new perspective on the world around you, just remember to take it slow if you are new to exercising, be safe and enjoy the time knowing you did something great for yourself. And the bonus? You won’t feel so guilty about the holiday treats this season. :-)
- Tags: health