5 Benefits of Exercising Outdoors When You're Freezing Your Ass Off

Written by Laura McDonald

Are you tempted to dive under the covers and hibernate when cold weather hits? It certainly seems like a good excuse, but exercising in the cold actually has some (pardon the pun) cool advantages.

Is it ever TOO cold to exercise outdoors? Not according to the experts interviewed here.

Growing up in the south, I never had to contend with super cold weather workouts so when I relocated to the Northeast it was new to me. But over the years, I’ve become an avid winter fitness buff and the crisp, clean, cold air really makes me feel alive, healthy and tuned in.

As a fitness instructor, I teach a boot-camp class in New York’s Central Park and some of our best workouts are in the cold weather. We have to keep moving to stay warm, we work hard, we yip and yell and burn a ton of calories!

After an hour lunging, jumping, squatting, doing push-ups, step ups and all types of exercises, we feel invigorated, satisfied and know we’ve pushed our minds and bodies to new extremes.

5 Benefits of Cold Weather Workouts:

1. You burn more calories. 

This is probably the best and most popular perk. Because your body is working harder, your metabolism revs up and your body burns more calories and fat to produce energy for your workout.

2. Your endurance performance increases. 

By challenging yourself in the cold weather, you are strengthening your heart, lungs and circulatory system, thereby improving your overall health.

3. Working out in the winter can help fight SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). 

Being outside and taking in more sun during the daylight hours helps keep your mind sharp and relieves depression as well as increasing your body’s manufacturing of vitamin D.

4. Exercise can help to boost feel good endorphins which elevate your mood and make you happier! 

The cold stimulates your parasympathetic system. (The sympathetic system is known as the “fight or flight” response while the parasympathetic is known as the “relax and renew” system). These endorphins can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that keep us happy, feeling good and ease depression.

5. It's invigorating, exciting and energizing. 

This is my personal favorite benefit of cold weather exercising. There’s nothing like adding that rosy glow to your cheeks after an intense outdoor winter workout.

Keep it safe, a few simple tips for exercising in the cold:

  • Make sure you hydrate before, during and after your workout.
  • Wear layers that you can peel off as necessary.
  • Wear a hat and gloves.
  • Adequately insulate your extremities. The face, fingers and toes are the first to get frostbitten. (Pain or tingling in your ears, fingers or toes is usually a sign it’s time to come indoors and warm up.)
  • Beware of ice. (I’ve had a few slips out there myself.)

No excuses now! Don’t let the cold keep you indoors this winter. Get outside, get your butt moving and enjoy the extra benefits a cold weather workout has to offer.

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