If you live in the northern half of the United States or in Canada, I will make an easy prediction: You are cold.
As cold as it is outside, it cannot extinguish the fiery passion some of us have for keeping in shape. But exercising in extreme temperatures can be potentially dangerous for obvious reasons. In the heat you’re at a higher risk of dehydration and at extreme risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. In the cold, you may battle hypothermia and frostbite. You can also fall on ice or be blinded the sun shining off the snow.
1. However, Exercising in Cold Weather Is Safe if You Exercise Regularly.
As long as you exercise on a regular basis, there seems to be no added risk to undertaking strenuous activity in extreme cold, outside of the environmental factors. However, asthmatics, people with heart problems or Raynaud’s disease should probably talk to a doctor beforehand. I’m not a doctor. I’m just writing a semi-entertaining article. Remember that.
The body’s reaction to cold weather is vasoconstriction, a tightening of the blood vessels. This draws blood and heat away from the extremities to protect the core. This can aggravate hypertension or other cardiovascular problems. The Texas Heart Institute warns that people without proper conditioning may be at added risk of heart attack when attempting anything laborious in chilly weather, even shoveling snow.
A study done on winter vacationers who traveled to ski slopes found that outbound folks who were unconditioned to the altitude, the cold and the strenuous activity were more likely to have a heart attack within the first two days of the trip. The majority of those who suffered heart attacks didn’t exercise regularly.
Despite that warning, the Texas Heart Institute considers cold-weather exercise beneficial because it helps with mood, improves immune system health and increases energy levels.
2. Muscle Soreness and Muscle Ability
Although I cannot find any hard scientific data to back this up, a personal trainer interviewed by CNN, says that cold weather causes muscles to contract (via vasoconstriction presumably), causing tightness and also claims that muscles are forced to work harder in low temperatures. This makes a lot of sense, though because we know that vasodilators like nitric oxide have been shown to produce the opposite effect.
3. You’ll Burn More Calories, Fat
Just being cold will kick-start a metabolic chain reaction that allows you to burn slightly more calories. Shivering is an uncomfortable way of sloughing fat also. But the biggest factor is that being cold activates brown fat which helps people stay warm and may help shed pounds.
According to a study out of the Netherlands, the body burns energy to stay warm at temperatures as high as 64 degrees through a process called non-shivering thermogenesis and that most people can see up to a 30% increase in this phenomenon by being exposed to mild cold. One researcher said something to the effect of “if you can’t make it to the gym, lingering at a bus stop in the cold may be the next best thing.” Other studies indicate that dietary nitrate can help change white fat into brown fat.
4. May Help Train Blood Vessels to Become More Responsive
According to Harvard University, another possible health benefit of being exposed to the cold is that it trains the blood vessels in your skin to be responsive, a boon for your vasculature.
5. The Bigger They Are The Colder They Get, but Having Fat Helps Keep You Warm
Just like in CrossFit, being tall is not an advantage. The bigger you are, the more surface area you have and the harder it’ll be to keep warm. Fat, however, is a good insulator even if it is the reason you’re outside in the cold, running around in circles.
6. Eat Before You Exercise, Drink Warm Fluids
If you eat an hour before you exercise, you’ll be able to use the thermogenic properties of your food to stay warm, according to Beginner Triathlete. Also, they say that cold beverages will remove heat from your body, so stick to warm drinks like tea or cider. Just make sure to hydrate.
7. Exercise Will Keep You Warm, Lose You Heat
When you exercise, your body will produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide will widen your blood vessels and put more blood in your extremities. This is great because you’ll feeler warmer, but you’ll also lose overall heat faster. So keep that in mind before you go out into the cold. Stay safe.
Red Rush can help boost your nitric oxide levels and provide you with 500 mg of dietary nitrate for all your winter exercise needs.