Winter and Covid might seem like a good excuse to stay indoors but your health is still extremely reliant on your ability to exercise and believe it or not, the winter is the best time to get outdoors and force yourself to battle the elements and get your workouts in.
It’s time to embrace the harsh winds, sleet and snow. You'll feel better for it and the best thing about that is your fitness will see bigger improvements than you've ever witnessed before. Here are some of the benefits:
1. The Chill Factor
The shock you feel when you swap your duvet for the frosty pavement is physiologically unavoidable, but the shiver up your spine signals that your metabolism is revving up. Your body is hard-wired to prefer storing fat over burning it, so it sends you a warning that you’re at risk of expending your stockpiled calories. That’s the point – so push on.
2. Metabolism Switch
Your body now starts to convert “lazy” white fat cells, used for energy storage, into calorie-melting beige cells. Researchers at the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center in Colorado found that regular exposure to the cold causes your metabolism to switch from predominantly burning carbohydrates to torching fat: the equivalent to doing seven hours’ extra cardio per week.
3. Improved Aerobic Performance
The cold causes your body to continue making subtle adaptations: your blood vessels narrow, and your heart and lungs work harder. This helps to improve your muscles’ aerobic function, meaning they receive more oxygen during exercise. An animal study by Northern Arizona University suggests it can increase your VO2 max by 34% and your long-distance running speed by 29%.
4. Bullet Proof Your Immune System
If you think all of this hard work will play havoc on your immune system, have no fear. In reality, the chill primes your defences. According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research in the US, regular cold-weather training could cut your risk of man flu by 20-30%. Fight fire with ice, essentially.
5. Keep It Consistent
Maintain your outdoor training all winter and you’ll promote the release of mood-enhancing hormones beta-endorphin and noradrenaline – which, combined with the endorphins released by exercise, will help you to ward off seasonal depression. These biological benefits will also make everyday stresses more manageable.