Updated: Aug 28
When You Need Healthy Movement The Most!
Winter time means colder temperatures, crazy weather, and shorter daylight hours. This also can mean less time and motivation to get your daily exercise in. However, this is likely when you physically and mentally need it most. Here’s some tips and ways on how to get active during the colder months.
Advantages to Exercising in Colder Temperatures
Exercising during the winter isn’t completely bad! When you are physically active in colder temperatures, you are ultimately exercising more efficiently. Your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you sweat less, and you expend less energy. In addition, you transform white fats such as those found in the belly and thigh into calorie-burning brown fat. Another plus is that winter workouts can encourage you to get your daily sunlight exposure, ultimately helping those with seasonal affective disorders. Winter is also when flu season hits; exercise can boost your immunity. 1
Things to Think About When It’s Cold Outside But You Want to Get Your Muscles Moving
There are several things to consider when planning a winter workout that may not need to be factored in when designing a summer workout. 2
For one, there is an increased risk of hypothermia from exercising in the cold. Hypothermia is the condition in which the body loses heat faster than it can generate, resulting in a dangerously low body temperature. If you’re going to plan an outdoor workout in the cold, it is crucial to wear the proper layers. It has been noted that the first layer should be a thin layer of synthetic material to draw sweat away from the body. Then the next layer on top should be fleece or wool for the purpose of insulation – cotton is not recommended, as it absorbs sweat and makes you colder. The third outermost layer suggested is a waterproof or breathable layer.
In order to get your body ready to go exercise outside in the cold, it is important to warm up. In general, studies have shown that adequate warm ups can yield performance improvements, as the purpose of pre-exercises is to increase muscle and tendon suppleness, stimulate blood flow to the periphery, increase muscle temperature, and enhance free, coordinated movement. 3 In colder weather, muscles can be even colder and tighter, increasing the risk for strains and injuries. To prevent the onset of these injuries, avoid starting with static stretches. Instead, do dynamic stretches to loosen the joints, get blood flowing, and warm up muscles and tissues.
In cold weather, cold air can drive down thirst. Therefore, it is quintessential to stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise.
When it is cold outside, blood concentrates in your body’s core in order to keep you warm. In this case, it is crucial to pay attention to a cold head, hands, and feet. Take advantage of gloves and socks.
Different Ways to Exercise During Winter
During winter, we may need a little extra motivation in our workout plans. This can come from switching it up every once in a while to make things more exciting. Here are a few different types of physical activity options during the winter to switch up your routine: 4
Home workout circuit – create your own HIIT workout circuit
Active housework like vacuuming & sweeping
Walking around the mall
Yoga or other fun group classes (at a local gym or online)
Climbing your stairs repetitively
Tips & Alternatives
To help you get started on your winter workout plans, here are a few tips and points of motivation. 5 Studies show that having strong social support can help keep people active so exercising with friends can help keep you accountable. If stepping outside in the cold to make it to the gym isn’t working out, an alternative can be to get gym equipment for home. You can even make it interesting by putting a TV in front of your treadmill! A third option would be to reconfigure your schedule: if the cold and darkness outside are what’s keeping you from your morning workouts, take a brisk walk or an exercise class during your lunch break instead.
Harvard Health Publishing. “The Wonders of Winter Workouts.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-wonders-of-winter-workouts.
Ednie, Andrea, and Michael Stibor. “Motivation and Self-Efficacy among Winter Outdoor Exercise Enthusiasts.” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14927713.2017.1399816.
Fradkin, Andrea, et al. “Effects of Warming-up on Physical Performance: A Systematic ... : The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.” LWW, journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2010/01000/Effects_of_Warming_up_on_Physical_Performance__A.21.aspx.
“How to Stay Active in Cold Weather.” Www.heart.org, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/getting-active/how-to-stay-active-in-cold-weather.
Mathis, Charlotte E. Grayson. “How to Keep Working Out In The Winter.” WebMD, WebMD, 16 Jan. 2004, www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/how-to-keep-working-out-in-winter.