Tucson and freezing are two words that are rarely used in the same sentence. However, if you were in Tucson last week, I am certain the word freezing rolled off your tongue at least once. I know I said it A LOT!! Not only did we have overnight lows hovering around 28 degrees, we also had snow in some parts of town. This may not be a big deal for those of you in winter wonderlands, but here in the desert, it was the talk of the town!
When the temperatures drop, you may be tempted to move your outdoor workout inside or perhaps just skip it altogether. Exercising indoors is obviously the better of those two choices, but what if I told you that exercising in cold weather is actually more beneficial than you may think. That’s right….if you can brave the cold, I guarantee you will get some pretty awesome rewards!
If you are shivering just thinking about exercising in the cold, I can relate. I do not like being cold so I definitely have to give myself a little pep talk to get motivated to exercise outside. But once I head out on my bike in 30-40 degree temps, I am grinning from ear to ear! Seriously….I feel this huge burst of energy and it makes me happy! Increased energy is not the only benefit you will get. Check out my list of the top 5 benefits and see if that will convince you!
1. Burn More Calories – Our bodies contain two types of fat: white fat and brown fat. White fat is the predominant form of fat in the body and is found in the hips, thighs, butt and around our internal organs. It is the largest energy reserve in the body. Unfortunately, most people have an excess of white fat which can lead to all sorts of health related issues. White fat is often referred to as the “bad fat.” Brown fat, on the other hand, is known as the “good fat” because it burns calories in order to generate heat. Brown fat is found primarily in the front and back of the neck and also the upper back. Brown fat significantly decreases as we age, however when we spend time exercising in cool or cold temperatures, our bodies convert the white fat to heat producing brown fat. This leads to an increased metabolism which can help prevent weight gain during the long winter months.
2. Boosts Your Immunity – Exercise in general enhances the immune system. However, studies have shown that exercising in cold weather increases the release of norepinephrine which is a neurotransmitter released during the fight or flight response. Researchers believe the increased norepinephrine gives the immune system an extra boost. Since cold weather naturally coincides with cold and flu season, this extra boost is just what the doctor ordered!!
3. Improved Mental Health – Exposure to cold weather activates the central nervous system and increases the release of feel good hormones like serotonin and dopamine. As an added bonus, being outside in the sunshine gives you a healthy dose of Vitamin D. All of these hormones help to improve your mood and energy levels.
4. Better Workouts – Once your body acclimates to the cold temperatures, the winter chill can enhance your endurance levels and actually make you feel less fatigued both physically and mentally during a workout. Trust me…..you will feel like superman or superwoman when you are out there in the cold!
5. Strengthens Your Heart – In order to keep your extremities warm, your heart has to pump a little bit harder. This is like weight training for your heart!! That being said, if you have any heart issues or blood pressure issues, it’s important to be cautious when exercising in cold temps. You don’t want to put extra stress on your heart or your body.
Are you ready to head out into the cold? If you’re shaking your head yes, there are a few things to keep in mind. Obviously, you want to make sure you are dressed appropriately for not only the type of exercise but also the temperatures. I find layering works best. My body moves easier with layers as opposed to a big, bulky jacket. And be sure to protect your fingers and toes. The body pulls blood from the extremities to the core to keep you warm so your hands and feet tend to get cold pretty quickly. On my early morning bike rides I wear shoe covers which really help keep my feet warm. To keep my hands warm, I have found that mittens seem to work better than gloves but honestly no matter what I wear my fingers still get cold 🙁
The cold weather may cause your muscles to tighten up initially so I like to do some light stretching before my ride to loosen up my muscles and joints. I also like to drink some hot tea which helps to warm up my body. It’s important to take in fluids before you exercise because we are less likely to remember to drink water when it is cold outside. Not to mention it is sort of a pain to grab your water bottle with mittens on!
Now if a cold weather workout is just not your thing, I do have an alternate suggestion that will give you some of the same benefits. Cold showers!! That’s right….taking a cold rinse can increase serotonin levels which helps relieve stress and depression. As far as boosting your immune system, a recent study found that people who took a cold shower for at least 30 seconds each day for a month experienced a 29% decrease in sick days. 30 seconds….that’s all it takes!
I have found that the easiest way to do this is alternating warm and cold water for 30 seconds each for a minimum of 2 minutes. It is best to end with cold water. If you are new to this, start with the 30 second cold rinse at the end of your shower. You can work your way up from there. I guarantee this will get your blood pumping!!
Whether you are coming in from the cold or coming out of a cold shower, I have the perfect drink to warm you up. Check out the recipe below for a super delicious, immunity boosting turmeric latte. I know you will be feeling toasty in no time!
Do you have any tips for exercising in cold weather? I would love to hear them. Hit reply and let’s chat!
Immunity Boosting Turmeric Latte
2 – 2 1/2 cups unsweetened nut milk
1 Tbsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ashwagandha powder
1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger root powder
1 tsp coconut nectar or maple syrup (optional)
1. Combine the milk, turmeric and ghee or coconut oil in a pot. Stir until well combined. Heat on the stovetop until warm.
2. Transfer to a high speed blender, add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.
3. Pour into your favorite mug, top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and enjoy!