The Pro’s And Con’s Of Working Out In The Cold

Fitness // Stephanie King BAppSc (Ex&SpSc), MBus (Marketing)

We feel you. Winter really has a way of dragging down your motivation levels, right?! Your mind feels like it’s coming up with every excuse to make you feel like you shouldn’t get out of bed and head out into the freezing cold air. So we thought we’d share the real pros and cons of working out in the cold, to help you combat that inner voice and “just freaking do it!”

The Pros

  • Improves endurance

Cold weather can actually improve endurance. When you train in colder temperatures, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you sweat less, and expend less energy, all of which means you can exercise more efficiently for longer periods of time. 

  • Converts ‘bad fat’ to ‘good fat’

Studies show that exercising in cold weather can transform white fat (sometimes referred to as bad fat, found around the belly and thighs), into calorie-burning brown fat.

Brown fat’s purpose is to burn calories in order to generate heat to keep the body warm. It is often referred to as the “good” fat because it helps to burn, rather than store, calories. 

  • Ward off SAD(ness)

Training outdoors in the cold allows your body to soak up some much-needed sunlight and Vitamin D. This helps to ward away the dreaded SAD (seasonal affective disorder (link)) that so many of us experience throughout winter. 

  • Can prevent a cold 

It should come as no surprise that people who exercise regularly are less likely to get a cold, with research showing that staying active halves the odds of catching cold viruses. So what better reason to lace up your sneakers and get out into the crisp fresh air a few times a week!

The Cons 

  • Muscle injuries 

When training in the cold, there is a slight increase in the risk of muscle injuries. This is because it’s more likely you’re training without adequately ‘warming up’. In the wintertime, your muscles and tendons lose more heat, causing them to tighten up and become less flexible. 

Introducing a longer warm-up before these sessions will minimise your risk of injury. Doing some light cardio, like brisk walking or a slow jog, is great for raising your core temperature and increasing blood and oxygen circulation. Adding in some slow and controlled compound movements (like squats, walking lunges with rotations and downward dog sequences) will ensure your entire body is ready to go. 

  • Extremely low body temp

This can happen when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, and results in conditions such as hypothermia. This can only occur when you’re exposed to extremely low temperatures for long periods of time. So in those cold early mornings, it’s essential to prepare your body with multiple layers of warm clothing. 

However, for the average half an hour jog or a quick HIIT session outside in winter, there is no need for concern. Our bodies are amazing at regulating our temperature to keep us safe. So even when you may feel freezing (numb fingers, toes and nose anyone!?), your core temperature will still be nice and warm. 

The Bottom Line

To put it simply, regardless of the temperature, getting outside and doing any form of exercise is always beneficial. Of course, if you have certain conditions, such as asthma or heart problems, talk to your doctor first about what your physical limits are. 

The most important thing to remember is to get into a routine this winter season that works for you. As long as you are regularly moving your body (any way, any how, any where!), your body will thank you for it!

Visit our winter fitness homepage for more cold weather focused tips and tricks from the 12WBT experts!

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