Autumn has faded away and here comes the cold weather. In winter, we tend to be demotivated by the frigid temperatures and chilly wind – not easy at all to get up early and pack away your workout gear. However, don’t you forget that the summer body is made during winter. Read our guide for exercising during winter to stay fit, motivated and warm.
The surprising benefits of workout during winter
“I highly recommend exercising outside in the early morning or swimming in cold water.”, said
Shingo Kajimura, an associate professor & lab director at the University of California, San Francisco. Some of his researches have shown that the body’s fat cells from unhealthy “white” fat can be converted to heat-producing, metabolically active “beige” fat thanks to spending time in cool or cold environments. Besides, regular exercise strengthens your immune system – which is sensitive during winter when colds and flu are around. When you exercise and get your blood pumping, immune cells circulate through more quickly, helping them destroy infections.
Daily workout can also release positive feelings and gives you a break from the usual winter blues (seasonal affective disorder). The brain releases the “feel-good” chemicals serotonin and dopamine, which helps ease depression while boosting wellbeing. Even a 30-minute exercise in the day could beat the winter blues!
One of the most common things when it comes to winter? Become a hibernating bear! Freezing weather makes it easier to turn to food as we feel hungry all the time and we use cold or bad weather as an excuse not to work out. No wonder winter is called a “weight gain” period. Keeping workout as a habit is the only way to make up for those added treats.
The safety (and warmth) tips for outdoor exercises
Working out in cold weather doesn’t mean you should be running in shorts or a tee shirt. It is essential to stay safe by wearing layers of warm clothes. First, put on a thin base layer made of synthetic fabrics (discussed above) to help pull sweat away from your skin. If it’s really cold outside, wear a middle layer, such as polar fleece, for extra warmth. Then, add an outer layer (or shell) to protect you from wind, snow, and rain. Consider bottoms with materials made from wool or innovative fabrics that work with your body to generate heat and retain it.
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It is also important to protect your extremities – fingers, ears, nose and toes as blood is shunted to the core of the body, leaving less blood available to hands and feet. To keep your extremities from freezing, wear a hat or headband and gloves or mittens. You can always take them off and tuck them in a pocket if you get warm. Thick socks also help. All these add-ons should be wool or synthetic, rather than cotton, to help keep sweat off your skin.
Warm-up is essential for workouts, and it is increasingly important during winter as you’re at increased risk for sprains and strains in colder temperatures. The best dynamic warm-up for you depends on what type of workout you’re doing. But for all warm-ups, be sure they include low-intensity movements that mimic the exercise you’re about to perform. If you’re a runner, for instance, a dynamic warm-up might include bodyweight lunges and squats, arm swings, and core activation work.
The perfect cold weather exercises
Start small, feel great. Heavy workouts (especially outdoor) is not recommended when the temperature is low. So what can you do in the cold?
- Rug Up & Walk to Work: If that’s a realistic option for you, make one day in your week that day you rug up and head off early and walk to work. In addition to getting the blood flowing, you’ll find the time to forget the home routine and focus on the job ahead!
- Run stairs: If you see stairs use them. Give up the escalator and give up the lift whether inside or out!
- Zen out.Give your mind and body a workout with yoga. It’s an ideal indoor cross-training activity for more cardio-intense activities like running.
- Bike riding. Not talking about a normal bike riding but intense cycling classes. They can burn up to hundreds of calories and keep bones strong. Interval-based rides will also strengthen the butt, thighs, calves, and even the core. No helmet necessary.