Why a run outside when it's chilly can be good for you
PEOPLE exercise for an average of eight minutes less per session in winter than in summer, research has found.
But now could be the best time to put on your trainers as working out in the cold can improve heart and lung function, help raise the metabolism and even fight the blues.
"Cold weather allows you to exercise at higher intensity for longer," says Stuart Goodall, an associate professor of exercise science at the University of Northumbria.
"In hotter weather, blood is needed at the extremities to help you sweat and cool down... but in the cold, blood isn't required for cooling and can be diverted to the working muscles, allowing for a greater exercise performance."
A 2014 US study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, also found that even when not exercising, we burn more calories in winter as the body insulates itself.
Exercising outside also helps increase exposure to sunlight, reducing the risk of seasonal affective disorder – depression triggered by dark, winter days, says Tom Cowan, an exercise physiologist and Public Health England panel member.
And cold-weather workouts could even ward off flu by supercharging the immune system.
According to the Mayo Clinic in the US, regular cold-weather training could cut the risk of getting flu by 20-30 per cent. This may be because exercise helps flush bugs out of the airways or because exercise helps to boost infection-fighting white blood cells.
But cold weather exercise also has its risks. "You need to warm muscles slowly or risk injury," says Sammy Margo, a chartered sports physiotherapist.
The right gear is also important to avoid hypothermia. And exercising in the cold may be unsuitable for the elderly who find it harder to regulate their body temperature and those with heart conditions. It may also trigger asthma attacks.
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