Often times in the winter months, exercise can find itself on the back burner as we hibernate under a heated blanket and sit by a cozy fire.
Although this may seem like the better alternative than braving the colder outdoors, exercising in cooler temperatures actually has great health benefits. Let’s explore these amazing benefits, some important cautions, and an example full-body workout routine to get you started!
Benefits of Exercising in Colder Temperatures:
1. Strengthens your cardiovascular system
When exercising in colder weather your heart needs to work harder to pump blood throughout your entire body. This type of exercise challenges your cardiovascular system and can help strengthen your heart muscle and keep your heart healthy.
2. Daily dose of Vitamin D
Sun exposure in the winter has the same physical and mental health benefits as it does in the warmer months. Exposure to sunlight daily can help ward off those “winter blues,” known as seasonal affective disorder. Plus, the additional vitamin D is good for your immune system. BUT, don’t forget your sunscreen, even in winter!
3. Winter exercise can boost immunity during cold & flu season
Exercise reduces your risk of getting sick. Moderate exercise training has been shown to induce a surge in immune-boosting cells that improves an overall defense against pathogens.
4. Great calorie burn
In colder temperatures, your body has to work harder to regulate its core temperature thus requiring more work and more calories burned. Your metabolism goes into overdrive as it tries to keep your body warm throughout your wintery workout, which results in more calories and body fat burned.
5. Explore new workout opportunities
The winter months give you a great opportunity to explore new activities you may have not had during warm weather months. Hit the ski slopes, put on a pair of ice skates, or hike a new trail. Use the winter to enjoy a new active experience.
Tips for Exercising in Colder Weather:
1. Check the Forecast
Make sure to check the temperature, wind, and moisture outside. Don’t forget to factor in the length of time you will be outside in these conditions. Please remember: moisture and exercising in precipitation leaves you more vulnerable to the cold.
2. Dress in layers
Naturally, we think we need all the warm gear we can grab as we venture into our winter workout. However, dressing too warmly can be a dangerous mistake when working out in colder temperatures as we still produce heat and sweat. With the cold air, your perspiration will evaporate quickly, leaving you feeling chilled and more susceptible to hypothermia. Dress in layers so you can remove them when you start to sweat, and put them back on if needed.
3. Protect your extremities & skin
Your fingers, ears, nose and toes are most affected by cold temperatures. Don’t forget your sunscreen! Yes, you can still get a sunburn in the winter. Apply at least SPF 30 to your face and all skin that is exposed. Tip: SPF lip balm is a great idea before, during, and after your workout, too.
4. Healthy Hydration
Drink plenty of fluids. Proper hydration is just as important during cold weather as it is during the summertime. It may be harder to recognize dehydration during cold weather, but you can still get dehydrated from your workout in cooler temperatures.
5. Warm up & Cool-down
Exercising in colder temperatures can increase your risk for sprains and strains. Use dynamic warm-up movements to prepare for your winter workout. What’s a dynamic warm-up? Use movements that mimic the type of exercise and incorporate the muscles used in the activity you are able to engage in. Although a “cool-down” seems like the last thing on your mind, don’t forget to properly finish a workout. Mimic similar low-intensity movements you did in your warm-up and follow it with static stretching.
Winter Workout Example:
AMRAP – “As Many Rounds as Possible” This workout style is beneficial for anyone at any fitness level!
How it works: You have a pre-established circuit and you are given a set time to try and complete as much work as you can. YOU set the pace. AMRAPs can be as easy or difficult as YOU make them. You are in control of your workout.
AMRAPs are a great way to track progress. Maybe each round is getting easier OR maybe you are able to accomplish more rounds within the given timeframe.
1. Lunge down your driveway
If there is snow, shoveling a path is a great warm-up
2. 10 Body Weight Squats
3. 20 High Knees
Modification: stand with your feet hip-width apart and alternate raising your knees up towards your chest as high as you can go without jumping
4. 10 House Push-Ups
Find a side of your house or garage and use the wall as support for your push up
5. 30 second House Wall-Sits
Find a side of your house or garage and use the wall as support for your sit
6. 45 seconds Front Porch Toe-taps
- Use the front steps of your home to quickly alternate tapping the stair with your toes
- Modification: Go up and down the stairs at your own pace
The winter months provide a great opportunity to explore a new workout and challenge your body in new ways, all while getting great health benefits. Lace up those tennis shoes, grab a warm hat and a pair of gloves, and explore all the wonders a winter workout can offer!
How many circuits of these six exercises can you complete in 14 minutes? Let us know in the comments section!
Laurie is a certified Exercise Physiologist with a master’s degree in Exercise Science. She began her education and career in the health and wellness field because her true passion is to be able to make a positive, lasting impact on peoples' lives. Laurie is excited to be working as a Health Coach for Medi-Share where she has the opportunity to walk alongside and empower others to pursue a healthy lifestyle and ultimately find their purpose in living a joyful, healthy life for the Kingdom of God.