You know the drill; you leave work long after the sun has set, the cold is seeping its way into your bones and your soul is being beckoned home by the imitable combination of carbs, couch and chill. The gym is the last place you feel like going and you sure as heck won’t be spending a second longer than you have to outside in the Austic climes (it’s an amalgamation of Australia and Arctic… works, right?).
Well, prepare to think again. Aside from sweating less (a whole lot less if you’re someone who’s perpetually sweaty *raises hand*), it turns out that there are actual health benefits to working out in the crisp, cold winter’s air. As tempting as it is to rush home as soon as you leave the office or dive back under the covers the second your alarm alerts you to the fact that you need to be at bootcamp within the hour, you should really get going; and your performance will thank you. Here’s why…
Not to keep harping on about Seasonal Affective Disorder, but if you’ve felt the winter blues creepin’ on in with erm, winter, that’s even more reason to head outside to get your endorphin fix. Prioritise exercise in the morning which will allow you to make the most of the daylight (and conveniently ensure you can make your way home for the aforementioned three C’s as soon as you leave work). Alongside making sure you get enough Vit D, exercising in nature has been proven to improve mental health.
In addition to this, the cold stimulates your parasympathetic system, which encourages relaxation and stress-reduction in the body. These endorphins can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin—the neurotransmitters that stave off depression and make us feel like the cute, wintery goddesses we were born to be.
Research suggests that working out in the cold can burn more calories than if you were to perform the same amount of physical activity in a warmer climate. This is because your body is working harder to regulate its core temperature among the elements—therefore burning more calories and fat to produce enough energy to see you through your workout. Not a bad byproduct of motivating yourself to get outside, eh?
We know it’s not what you want to hear; but warming up and cooling down are especially crucial in colder weather—as keeping the body warm and limber is essential for preventing injury. While you might file this away as another reason to skip your workout and stay in bed, you could see it as a reason to get your routine down pat. Cup half full and all that.
Cold weather makes the heart work harder in order to effectively distribute blood throughout the body. For someone who exercises on the reg, this tax on cardiovascular endurance can make the heart even stronger, which prepares your bod to perform better when conditions warm up again.
As cup-half-full as you’re feeling, you probably don’t want to be spending more time in the cold than you have to. Luckily, it turns out that a brisk chill makes you move faster, with research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise finding that race times are faster in cold weather than in warmer temperatures. Whaddup, fun-run training!
If you’re at a loss for what sort of exercise you should be doing, why not take yourself on a scenic jog, power your way through a park HIIT session, or try taking cue from our Scandinavian pals across the pond and get into plogging?