As the temperatures outside begin to drop and the safety of going to the gym is still in question, there may be some good news for your winter workouts. Research and experts say that exercising outdoors is not only safe to do this winter, but actually may be more beneficial to your health.
“When it gets into the 40s and 30s, you can still enjoy your regular outside routines, like walking, running, and even cycling,” Dr. Adam Tenforde, an assistant professor of sports medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, said.
Of course, you should still take proper precautions, such as layering up, staying hydrated and wearing sunscreen. However, outdoor workouts in colder weather can offer several benefits that your regular indoor workouts don’t. Here are some reasons you should consider getting active outside this winter.
You burn more calories
In colder weather, your body has to work harder to regulate its core temperature, meaning you are likely to burn more calories than you would during the warmer months or inside of a gym.
“If you are making an athletic-level effort — cycling hard, running at a training level — you are burning 10 to 40 percent more calories in the cold than you would in more temperate temperatures,” trainer Jo Zimmerman said.
In some cases, exercising in cold weather can also transform white fat into calorie-burning brown fat, Harvard Health Publishing reported.
Tenforde also added that cold weather workouts can help improve endurance overtime.
“In colder temperatures, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you sweat less, and expend less energy, all of which means you can exercise more efficiently,” he said.
You get more Vitamin D
This is the case with any outdoor activity, no matter what season it is. However, during the winter, we typically don’t get as much sunlight exposure as we do during the warmer months.
Exercising outdoors is a good way to get some extra sun, which not only boosts your mood but actually provides lots of additional health benefits.
Sun exposure provides your body with lots of essential nutrients, including Vitamin D. This can help reduce your cabin fever, but it also is essential to helping build strong bones.
“Vitamin D is important for keeping bones strong; it’s particularly important for people with arthritis who take corticosteroids because they have an increased risk of brittle bones,” Lynn Millar, chairwoman and professor of physical therapy at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, said.
According to the Vitamin D Council, just 15 minutes of sunlight a day can produce a significant amount of Vitamin D in fair-skinned individuals.
Just be sure that when you are outside, you wear sunscreen on the parts of your skin that are exposed. Even in the winter, the sun can cause damage after 10-15 minutes of exposure!
Fight seasonal depression
Getting outside can help fight the seasonal depression that so many people experience this time of year.
Working out not only helps increase your body temperature, creating a calming effect on the body, but it also releases positive chemicals in your brain that can boost your mood.
It’s no secret that exercise, in general, helps our brains release serotonin and dopamine, which can reduce anxiety and depression. However, exercising outside can be even more beneficial to your mental health.
Huffington Post reported that cold weather can actually stimulate more endorphin production, resulting in a feeling of happiness and lightness after a good workout. So get outside and get moving when you need a mood booster.
Boost your immune system
Now, more than ever, it’s important to boost your immune system! Cold and flu season can already be brutal for so many and it’s even more essential in the midst of a pandemic to do whatever you can to stay healthy.
Research has shown that regular exercise can strengthen your immune system, but doing it outdoors can increase the benefits even more. For one, getting fresh air that isn’t being recirculated is a great detox for your lungs.
A 2015 study also revealed that regular exercise strengthens your immune system by stressing it repeatedly.
“We strongly believe that long-term, regular exercise can considerably improve the immune defense mechanism,” researcher Yoonkyung Park said.
So, get out there and get moving this winter if you can. Just be sure to do so safely. Experts recommend warming up before an outdoor winter workout. You should also dress warmly, stay hydrated, and avoid going out when it’s raining.