It may be more difficult to make a habit of a cold weather fitness routine than our usual summer exercise program, but the exercising in cold weather can bring even more health benefits.
Endorphins give us the “natural high” that we feel after we exercise. During the summer, heat and humidity can make us feel sluggish when we exercise, but our bodies have to work harder when we exercise in the cold weather, which creates more endorphins.
Calories burn more quickly during our winter exercise programs. We exercise faster when we’re cold, and our bodies work harder in the cold temperatures. All of that adds up to burning more calories when we exercise outdoors during the winter.
Depression and season affective disorder (SAD) rates rise during the winter. The days are shorter, the sun shines less, the winter seems to drag forever… But exercising outdoors gives us a chance to breathe fresh air and enjoy natural, outdoor lighting. Both of those factors help fight depression and SAD.
Now that we’re motivated to exercise outdoors during the last few weeks of cold weather, let’s remember that it’s just as important to stay hydrated during the winter as it is during the summer. We may not see pools of sweat on our t-shirts during the winter, but we are still sweating, and dehydration will undo all of our efforts to be healthy.
Also, listen to our bodies as we begin our winter fitness program. It is better to underestimate our body’s responses to the cold. This includes wearing proper gear to avoid hypothermia or similar conditions. Stay warm with mittens, neck gaiters, and hats.
We don’t have to run winter marathons to gain the benefits from outdoor exercising. Cross-country skiing, sledding, walking, ice skating, hiking, a snowball fight, building snowmen – it all counts as activity, and it all means less SAD, better overall health, and a more enjoyable winter!