Three benefits of (and three precautions about) outdoor winter exercise


Three benefits of (and three precautions about) outdoor winter exercise

In Summary

  • Plummeting temperatures and less daylight causes many people to cut back significantly on exercise during this time of year or to shift their exercise indoors, to the warmth and comfort of their home or gym.
  • This may be tempting, but here are three great reasons (and a few precautions) to encourage you to bundle up and head outside to stay fit, happy and healthy this winter.
  • Research shows that exercising regularly in cold temperatures can increase the production of calorie-burning brown fat by 45% and can increase your overall metabolism significantly.

Plummeting temperatures and less daylight causes many people to cut back significantly on exercise during this time of year or to shift their exercise indoors, to the warmth and comfort of their home or gym. This may be tempting, but here are three great reasons (and a few precautions) to encourage you to bundle up and head outside to stay fit, happy and healthy this winter.

Research shows that exercising regularly in cold temperatures can increase the production of calorie-burning brown fat by 45% and can increase your overall metabolism significantly. This may be helpful in preventing the winter weight that often accrues due to lower levels of daily activity, reduced intake of fresh fruit and salad, and increased intake of comfort foods such as mashed potatoes and meatloaf.

Exercise in general improves mood and can help reduce anxiety, stress and depression, but exercising outdoors may have added benefits, according to some studies. A 2017 study found that climbing outdoors for several hours, compared with indoor walking on a treadmill, improved feelings of pleasure and reduced feelings of fatigue.

Both exercise groups were calmer, less anxious and happier than a sedentary group, so if you really hate the cold, indoor exercise is definitely better than none.Exercise is great for your health, but exercising outdoors may be even better. According to a large study from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, outdoor exercise may decrease the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by up to 27% over being sedentary, and it was strongly associated with higher levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D, which drops in the winter due to reduced sun exposure (UVB rays from the sun trigger the formation of vitamin D in the skin), plays a role in bone health and fall risk, supports healthy immune function and may help protect against cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Though the benefits of outdoor exercise outweigh the risks for most people, here are a few more important considerations.If you have a history of heart disease or two or more risk factors for heart disease — including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history of early heart disease, diabetes, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle or poor diet — cold-weather exercise can actually cause a heart attack.

A Chinese study found that people with a history of heart disease had a 41% increased risk of dying of a heart attack during the winter. An Austrian study of winter tourists found that most heart attacks occurred in the first two days of the vacation, mainly in people who did not exercise regularly or who had two or more risk factors for heart disease.
If you are sedentary and at risk for heart disease, make sure to check with your doctor before exercising in the cold, and be sure to start exercising regularly indoors before exercising outside during the winter.

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