We’re right in the thick of winter so it’s fair enough if motivation to exercise, let alone outside, is at an all-time-low. But, this surprising fact might give you the push you needed: winter is actually the most beneficial season to work out in for a number of reasons.

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This week we’re challenging you to pull yourself away from the heater, change out of your track pants and pound the pavement outside. You'll not only reap these bonus benefits of exercising in cold weather, but you might even enjoy it ;)

1. You burn more calories

Winter is definitely challenging when it comes to eating healthy and keeping active. The temptation to huddle up inside with comfort food and a side of Netflix is all too real. However, the good news is, your usual outdoor summer workout will burn more calories in winter. As the body works harder to regulate its temperature you'll burn more calories when cold. While the calorie burn varies with each person's body mass, the extra weight loss is definitely a bonus – that is if you don’t overeat later of course!

2. The sunshine vitamin

Even in summer we don’t get enough vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, so in winter we most definitely aren’t getting adequate intake.  Vitamin D is essential for keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy, as well as boosting mental health. As there are only a limited number of foods that can provide your body with vitamin D, the easiest source is sun exposure, as well as vitamin D supplementation.

3. A healthier heart

Physical activity improves your heart health. Cold weather gets the blood pumping faster, making the heart work harder to distribute blood throughout the body. For those without underlying heart conditions, exercising in colder temperatures can also increase cardiovascular endurance and make the heart muscle even stronger, preparing the body for more strenuous workouts in the future.

Exercising in winter

Exercising in winter is great for your health health / @kirstygodso

4. Smash cold and flu season

The idea that you’ll catch a cold from exercising outside in winter is an old wives’ tale. In fact, you’re far more likely to catch a cold from nasty bacteria lurking in the gym. As long as you’ve got winter appropriate workout gear, winter is no more risky than exercising in summer – it’s actually less risky. Research has shown that regular exercise boosts your immune system so it can better fight off the flu. So by exercising outside in winter and avoiding the gym, you’ll be more likely to stay cold and flu-free this winter.  

5. More endorphins than summer!

Exercising during winter could be the cure to winter blues. Aside from the obvious confidence boost that comes from breaking a sweat, exercise makes us happier because the body releases endorphins and serotonin which reduce stress and anxiety, making you your happiest self. More great news: winter releases even MORE endorphins. Thanks to the lack of humidity (like in summer) and the chill factor that gets the blood pumping, the body works harder to stay warm and the amount of endorphins produced also increases.

Tips for exercising in winter

Warm-up

Speaking to The Healthy, trainer Ashley Wilking explained the importance of warming up in winter moreover other seasons. “Imagine a rubber band… it’s flexible, bendy, and pulls right back to its shape. Now imagine that same rubber band, but frozen. If you try to pull too hard before it’s thawed out, it’ll snap.” Your muscles are like rubber bands, you need to gradually warm them up to prevent injury. Experts recommend heating up your larger muscles, like quads and hamstrings, with light stretching, jumping jacks and lunges indoors before heading outside.

Do it together

If lack of motivation is your problem, then working out with a partner could be the accountability you need.

Hydrate

You may feel like you sweat less in cold weather, but don’t be fooled, you still need to drink up. Dehydration increases your risk of injury significantly and will slow down your performance. Stay hydrated by drinking room temperature water before, during and after your workout.

Dress for the weather

The hardest part about exercising outside in winter is facing the cold so it’s important to layer up accordingly so that’s not an issue. Consider investing in an outer layer to protect you from rain and wind, as well as shoes with proper traction. It’s especially important to get new sneakers for winter if you exercise regularly to ensure they have a safe level of grip for icy or wet conditions.

Wear reflective gear

Most importantly, safety first! Less sunlight means less visibility to cars, cyclists and others pedestrians, so it’s imperative to wear reflective items, like arm bands, vests and backpacks.

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