As winter creeps up, the prospect of throwing on gear to work out in the frigid cold is sometimes far less appealing than staying inside the comfort of home. However training in the cold provides an additional array of health and athletic benefits, enhancing the multitude of benefits that exercise provides.

For an added incentive to get off the couch, I’d like to share with you how training in the cold can enhance your health and wellbeing, and even boost your athletic performance.

Helps Beat the

Winter Blues

The mood-enhancing benefits of exercise are well documented, and of particular benefit during the colder months with fewer daylight hours. A reduction in vitamin D — which we assimilate mostly through sunlight — is a main cause of the so-called ‘winter blues’. Although heading outside to train may not feel like the most appealing thing when it’s cold outside, the endorphins released through exercise will make it well worth the effort. Research at Duke University in the US found that cardio exercise markedly increases levels of serotonin in the brain, and discovered that cardio exercise is four times more effective at reducing symptoms of depression than antidepressant drugs.

Boosts the

Immune System

Training during the winter is the best way to bolster your immune system and defend yourself against seasonal colds and flu. A study by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research discovered that regular outdoors exercise in the cold reduced the risk of flu susceptibility by 20-30 percent.

Boosts Circulation

Getting the heart and blood pumping is of excellent benefit to your circulation and heart health, and these affects are heightened in cold weather. Training in the cold is excellent for protecting against heart disease, and general heart health.

Raises the Metabolism

Whilst all exercise and athletic endeavor boost the metabolism, researchers have found that training in the cold yields a higher metabolic increase. As the body has to expend additional energy to stay warm, exercise in the cold yields a higher calorific expenditure, and has a particular effect on brown fat cells (an energy-burning fat commonly found in athletes and those with a high lean muscle ratio). This is particularly welcome news in the season of winter comfort food.

Enhances Lung

Health & Athletic

Performance

Many find that training in cold weather places greater pressure on breath – and this is a good thing. A study by Northern Arizona University found that training in cold weather helps train your lungs and whole body to utilize oxygen more efficiently, which helps boost your overall athletic performance. The researchers found that regular training in cold weather had the potential to add an average of 29 percent to athletes running speed.

Do you have a question regarding sports medicine that you would like to see addressed in this space in the future? Send your questions to Lake Region Healthcare’s Sports Medicine team at SportsMed@lrhc.org and it may be featured in an upcoming article.

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