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Health-Boosting Benefits of Exercising in the Cold

iStock-542934960Did you know that working out in the cold weather comes with extra advantages? So there are even fewer excuses to skip your morning run in winter. Plus, with lockdown restrictions still in place in parts of the world, getting to the gym can be extra challenging. So, if your goal is to stay fit all year long, consider some cold weather workouts.

Even though you might not feel like it, getting out and exercising in the cooler winter months can work wonders for your health. Side note: you still have to dress properly to avoid catching hypothermia. Get prepared by organizing some base layers, plus a warm hat and gloves. When it’s freezing cold outside, you do need to do a little extra preparation, but the benefits (almost always) outweigh the cons. 

So what happens to your body when you exercise in cold weather?

Enhanced Endurance

The first thing that happens when you continue your outdoors workout routine is obvious; you’ll avoid gaining weight over the winter months. According to Rebecca Blake, the Senior Director of Clinical Nutrition at Mt. Sinai, the average winter weight gain is 5-10 pounds.   

Additionally, when you exercise in the cold, your heart doesn't have to work as hard as it does in summer. Your performance and endurance can also be enhanced because you sweat less and expend less energy. Additionally, if you exercise in the cold, your white fat can turn to the healthier brown fat. 

Lose Tummy Fat Fast - Bad Fat vs Good Fat

One of the best ways to lose tummy fat fast is to exercise in the cold. Cold temperatures of below 66 degrees F (19 degrees C) have been found to turn white fat into brown fat. This matters, because brown fat is much healthier than white fat. In fact, many researchers have concluded that brown fat can recruit white fat and use it as fuel. White fat cells are found in high numbers in people suffering from obesity, and are considered “bad fat.” while brown fat is considered “good fat”. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that people had more genetic markers for brown fat in the winter compared to the summer months.

Excess belly fat is one of the first signs of a metabolic disorder. If not kept in check, this can lead to more serious conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. People who carry a lot of excess weight have a high number of white fat cells and a lower brown fat cell count. Interestingly, white fat cells can be turned to beige or brown fat cells, switching from energy storage to energy expenditure. Thus, the goal of weight loss can be achieved.

Exercising in the Cold Turns Up the Heat 

Weight gain is essentially an energy imbalance. Too many calories are consumed with a simultaneous lack of energy expenditure leads to a buildup of white fat cells and a cascade of metabolic disorders. These white fat cells expand over time and contribute considerably to weight gain and obesity. Therefore, finding ways to turn up the heat to burn fat tissue is important in weight loss. However, it’s not just a matter of switching on the central heating. On the contrary, it’s the cold temperature that turns up the heat. 

When you exercise in the cold - similar to taking a cold shower in the morning - your body generates heat. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is found en masse in babies, and is responsible for turning up the heat to keep babies warm. We now know, thanks to several studies, that adults also have significant deposits of BAT. BAT is filled with potent energy filled mitochondria that, when stimulated, produce heat.

Precautions: Who Shouldn’t Exercise in the Cold Weather?

Before exercising in the cold, you need to make time to stretch. Avoid the temptation to leave out this step as cold muscles are more prone to sprains and injury. Dr. Adam Telforde of Harvard's Spaulding Rehabilitation Network advises to do "more dynamic forms of stretching that keep body parts moving, can loosen your joints, get your blood flowing, and warm up muscles and tissues." Examples of such include arm circles, arm swings, high steps and lunges. 

If you have asthma, heart problems or are obese, then it’s advisable to contact your physician before exercising in the cold. Likewise, if you don’t have the right gear, then it's a good idea to wait until you're better prepared. But don’t use clothing as an excuse. All you really need are some good shoes, a warm hat, gloves, some layers, and a warm, yet breathable jacket and leggings. It’s also a good idea to get a head torch for the long winter nights, as there aren't many daylight hours left at the end of a work day. Finally, make sure to check the surface that you’re going to travel to avoid flooded areas or black ice. 

Take-Home Message 

Exercising in the cold weather can turn white fat into brown fat, creating warmth and energy, and can also boost endurance. You can also reap the benefits of getting vitamin D from sunlight while enjoying a jog or brisk walk. If you can overcome the mental hurdles that may stand in your way, then you’ll also gain more confidence in yourself. Just make sure you get prepared first, so that you can step out of your comfort zone safely and reap the benefits of winter exercise.

Related Biotics Research Products:

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