What is winter exercise?
We have seen a massive rise in indoor workouts (especially at-home workouts) over the last two years. Lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions made a lot of people rethink the nature of fitness and exercise. With the rules eased up in a lot of places, we don’t have to stop working out indoors. This is where winter exercise can be beneficial.
If you like to exercise outdoors, the winters can be a tough time. It can be difficult (even unsafe) to continue working out outside due to icy cold weather. It gets worse if you live in the northern hemisphere and get regular snowfall.
But that doesn’t have to be a barrier to exercise and healthy living. You can continue exercising indoors (at home or at a gym) with minimal to no equipment. In this post, we’ll cover everything related to winter exercise, and how to optimize it to suit you when it’s too cold to work out outdoors.
Benefits of winter exercise
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of applying winter workouts in our lives, let’s look at the benefits of exercising in cold.
Boost in metabolism
According to some studies, cold weather triggers an evolutionary reaction in us that makes us burn more calories and metabolize nutrition more efficiently. Therefore, cold weather boosts the burning of brown fat.
In simple words, brown fat is the healthier kind of fat that was relied on heavily by our ancestors in the hunter-gatherer days. Its primary function is to provide insulation to our vital organs and regulate body temperature. Activating brown fat also leads to easier weight loss while staying healthy.
Better temperature regulation
Hypothermia can be a common problem during the cold months. Therefore, winter exercise is a good practice to combat cold-related issues. Exercising produces body heat, which can be effective in better internal thermoregulation.
Lower heart rate decreases fatigue
According to research, endurance activities can be easier during winter, due to a natural lowering of heart rate, leading to less fatigue. A decrease in tiredness is also attributed to less energy expenditure and sweating.
Improved mental well-being
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a common mental health condition seen during the winter months. Its lesser effects are often termed winter blues. Shorter daylight hours and bitter cold can negatively affect any of us.
Whether you have a serious case of SAD or some passing effects of winter blues, winter exercise can help ease your symptoms by regulating mood and sleep cycles better. Working out outdoors (with precautions) can increase exposure to sunlight which has its own benefits on mental health.
A stronger immune system
Winter workouts can help you effectively fight off symptoms of a cold and the flu. Exercising in cold makes your immune system stronger against any foreign invaders.
Practical Tips to Incorporate Winter Exercise in your Daily Life
As good as winter workouts can be for our health, exercising in cold comes with its own set of possible downsides. We’ll explore some of the precautions we can take to keep ourselves safe during our winter exercise routines. We’ll also look at ways in which we can incorporate winter exercise seamlessly into our daily lives. So, let’s get started!
Choose a safe place to exercise
Make sure you’ve chosen a well-ventilated space with a safe surface to work out on. This is especially important if you want to intermittently exercise outdoors.
Keep yourself hydrated
Hydration is not just for summers! Winter months can end up dehydrating us severely as feelings of thirst can be less. Therefore, it is particularly important to hydrate ourselves in the cold. Consume less caffeine and increase the intake of water, juices, or smoothies.
Be aware of the symptoms of cold-related injuries
Winter workouts can also be done outdoors which increases the risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold injuries. Other symptoms that may be seen indoors as well include shivering, extreme fatigue, slurred speech, etc.
It’s very important to educate yourself about these symptoms, especially if you’re planning to sneak in some occasional outdoor winter workouts.
Get plenty of sleep
Rest and recovery are important after every workout. Focus on getting a good night’s rest and taking small breaks through the day should be a priority.
Some tips to keep in mind during the workout
Prevent the risk of injuries by warming up your muscles properly
We all know the risks of working out on cold muscles. The possibility of injuring yourself is especially high when you’re exercising in cold temperatures. Go for an extended warm-up each time you start a session so that your muscles are ready to work. Don’t forget to cool down afterward either.
Include dynamic warm-up movements as much as possible instead of static ones.
Consider wearing appropriate gear
Depending on where you choose to work out, keep a different set of sportswear and other equipment for use during your winter workout sessions. For example, if you’re traveling to a gym, make sure to dress appropriately for the commute and then for the actual session itself.
Insulation is vital during winter. Winter workouts (like any workout) can make us feel sweaty due to the added heat production. It can be dangerous though. Try wearing layers instead so you can quickly take off or put on clothing as per your requirement.
It’s easy to lose sight of your physical limits when you’re sweating less and feeling less fatigued. That makes it even more important to not overdo certain aspects of training. Fitting in small boosts of movements multiple times during the day can help reduce the chances of overextending yourself.
Try exercise snacking
Exercise snacking is an interesting concept that can seem deceptively simple. If you’re unable to fit in a full routine of winter exercise in one go, you can add multiple short bursts of movements. It’ll help engage your cardiovascular system and meet your daily fitness goals.
Various activities can be utilized for exercise snacking such as jogging in place, doing some jumping jacks, stair climbing, etc. Moreover, it’s easier to get up and move for 5-10 minutes at a time, especially if you’re suffering from a low mood. Remember, drop by drop fills the tub!
Putting it all together
Now that we have discussed the benefits, precautions, and practical tips to start using winter exercise, the only step left is to put these into practice. Try not to overthink the process, and instead get up and just move for 10 mins. Once you start feeling the benefits of winter workouts, it’ll be easier to incorporate longer durations or vary exercise intensity.
Let’s stay safe, and warm, and start off the new year by giving ourselves the greatest gift of health and fitness.
If you need specialized advice that is tailored to your individual needs, you can check out our services here. We provide one-on-one personal training at your home or online to help you create the best version of yourself!