Summer bodies are made in winter. And, even though we may feel like curling up in bed on those freezing cold mornings, winter workouts have been proven to have many advantages. Here are some of the benefits of exercising in colder temperatures.
If you’re anything like me, winter just rids you of any motivation to workout. With no sun, goosebumps covering your entire body and especially when you start to feel the cold temperatures in your bones, your workouts just become incredibly taxing.
So that’s why we all tend to take a time-out during the cold months, put on some weight, and then drastically try to lose it again during the spring. But you’re shooting yourself in the foot and it’s far easier to achieve your fitness goals if you put the work in during the winter months, according to a study from Harvard‘s Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.
Benefits of winter workouts
“In colder temperatures, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you sweat less, and expend less energy, all of which means you can exercise more efficiently,” says Dr. Adam Tenforde, an assistant professor of sports medicine and rehabilitation.
If you’re looking to get into tip-top shape for summer, could weather is more effective in transforming white fat (such as belly and thigh fat) into calorie-burning brown fat. It also helps build endurance, so if you’ve already put on a few, the best time to get rid of it is now. Not to mention, if you’re going to work out outdoors, the additional exposure to sunlight can offset seasonal depression.
However, if you’re going to take advantage of the benefits of winter workouts, you also need to take not of some of the risks, such as hypothermia and an increased risk of strains or injuries. If you are experiencing symptoms such as intense shivering, extreme fatigue, slurred speech, or loss of coordination, you need to seek emergency care immediately. You should also always let someone know if you’re exercising outdoors and should always be carrying a fully-charged cell-phone.
Beyond this, you need to dress in layers, protect your head, hands and feet, stay hydrated and exercise on dry/stable/safe surfaces, which can all be compromised when working out during the winter.
You also need to make sure that your muscles are stretched and warmed up before your workout routine begins
“You want to avoid starting with static stretches, that is, not moving the body part while stretching, which can further increase your risk for injury,” says Dr. Adam Tenforde of Harvard’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. “More dynamic forms of stretching that keep body parts moving can loosen your joints, get your blood flowing, and warm up muscles and tissues.”
You need to do a short set of warm-up/stretching exercises before each of your winter workouts, just to make sure that you’re not putting yourself at risk. Dr Tenforde suggests doing the follow to help yourself warm up to the cold:
- Arm circles: Hold your arms out to the sides, palms down, at shoulder height. Begin making small circles and gradually make them larger until you complete 20 circles. Then go from large to small circles until you complete another 20.
- Arm swings: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and swing your arms in unison to the right and then to the left, twisting from the waist. Go back and forth until you complete 10 swings total (five toward each side).
- High steps: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your right knee high toward your chest (touch a wall for balance or place one or both hands around your knee, if needed). Hold for a second, then return to the starting position. Repeat the movement with your left knee. Go back and forth until you’ve lifted each knee five to 10 times.
- Lunges: Stand with your feet together and step forward with your right leg, lowering your body by bending both knees to 90° angles. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement with your left leg forward. Repeat the sequence five to 10 times.
So now that you’re equipped with a quick pre-workout warm-up and the knowledge that gritting your teeth every morning to get up and just do what needs to be done will yield great benefits, it’s up to you to go out and prove to the yourself that you have the discipline and determination to do your winter workouts every day. And when the sun starts to come out again, you’ll thank yourself for it.