[Written by Peter Nielsen].
Cold temperatures and heavy snow can raise the challenge of your outdoor fitness routines, but the payoff is worth it! New research shows how important that exercise is … especially in the winter. Increasing your exposure to sunlight helps reduce seasonal affective disorder, the depression linked to the change in seasons that commonly occurs in the last two months of winter. Notably, a recent study from the University of Tampere in Finland found that working out in nature leads to greater emotional well-being and better sleep than exercising indoors.
Additionally, when you’re cold, your body has to work harder to keep your core temperature up and when you shiver, you burn five times the number of calories compare to when you are at rest. Cold also activates the brown fat which burns energy, rather than stores it.
Winter workouts carry their own dangers, here are a few tips to protect you on the coldest days.
• Wear layers. Insulate yourself against the wind and cold with a layered clothing instead of a single, bulky garment. The first layer that’s directly touching your skin should be a lightweight synthetic or polyester material. It will dry quickly and wick away moisture. The second layer should be wool or polyester fleece. The outermost layer — worn in the rain, snow, or wind — should be lighter weight and water-repellent to help you stay dry.
• Keep your head covered. Between 50 and 70 percent of body heat may be lost when your head is unprotected in cold weather. Wearing a hat helps your whole body retain heat.
• Protect your feet and hands. Keeping hands and feet warm is vital. Your body concentrates on keeping your internal organs warm in cold weather. Gloves also help prevent skin damage and frostbite. Keep your feet warm by being sure your torso is properly insulated and your feet dry. Wear winter athletic socks with an inner layer that moves moisture away from the skin to an outer absorbent layer. If you run or engage in ice or snow-related activities, select an athletic shoe with a thick tread on the bottom or footwear designed specifically for icy conditions. Thick socks, or multiple layers of socks, can add a to your winter workout shoes, be sure you’re comfortable!
• Wear a face mask or scarf in frigid temperatures. A loose layer over your nose and mouth can warm cold air before you inhale and protect your lungs.
• Drink Water. You don’t feel as sweaty as you do in the summer, but water is just as important in winter months. It even keeps you warm by helping the body retain heat!
In extreme cold move your workout indoors to the gym or develop a workout regimen you can do at home, take the stairs at work or speed walk through the mall! Try adding fresh ginger, garlic and cayenne to your food as a way to boost the immune system! Eucalyptus and juniper also stimulate the circulation and help protect the immune system.
Winter workouts have a different set of challenges than summer exercise, but but they offer some special benefits too!
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