Maybe this is the winter you want to take your workouts to the great outdoors. The snow can look inviting in the sun, and cold temperatures can, at times, be highly enticing.
And if you live somewhere where winter flourishes, why not experience your surroundings to the fullest?
There are actually some unique benefits to cold-weather workouts. One is that you don’t have to deal with high heat and humidity. This might allow you to work out longer and potentially burn more calories and build more muscle.
Exercising outdoors in the winter can also help you get more vitamin D – a nutrient in relatively short supply for people living in colder, darker climates this time of year. Vitamin D may help boost mood, immunity, and enhance bone strength.
But just like there are some unique benefits to cold-weather exercise, there are also some risks. Exerting effort outdoors, whether you’re playing a sport, going for a walk or snowshoe, or digging out your driveway, cold temperatures pose a risk to the heart.
Cold temperatures can lead to higher blood pressure and a greater risk for heart attack and stroke. The added risk comes from the fact that blood vessels and arteries constrict in the cold, giving blood less space to flow through.
Your heart works extra hard in the cold to keep your body at a safe and healthy temperature. The additional workload can add stressors to your heart that you might not normally be accustomed to.
But there are ways to ease the pressure on your heart and reduce the risk of danger for winter workouts.
Layer Up: Layers help you keep warm and prevent hazards like frostbite and hypothermia. A sweat-wicking base layer is preferred.
Don’t Overexert: Ease into your exercise and trust the process. As you get into better shape, you’ll be capable of more; just be patient.
Take Breaks and Stay Hydrated: Even though it’s cold, you might not feel thirsty, but it is important to drink water and stay hydrated just like you would for a warm-weather workout.
Be Mindful of Added Calories: You don’t want to cancel out your workout by warming up with a hot chocolate or spiced latte afterward. Save them for special occasions, and instead, have unsweetened tea and coffee to help you warm up.