Many athletes who are starting their fitness or sports journey find this question come up their way –

  • Does running in winter benefit?
  • Do you burn more calories in the cold weather?
  • Should we run in cold weather or stay indoors?

This article helps you with all the questions that you have in your mind before you hit the roads and tracks in the season. There are definitely some benefits like exercising in cold burn more calories with less workout done. The extra work is done by your muscles and fat cells.

So all you runners, get up, get ready and gear up for your winter training!

1) Is It Bad for You to Run in the Cold?

Many people and fitness freaks take a back seat during the winter months, but there are a lot who still take to their tracks and running. There are many who find it easier to run in cold weather rather than summers.

So is running in the cold bad for you? No, it is not bad if you take care of your timings and the environment. Lesser temperatures, in fact, put less stress on your body – the heart rates reduce, you feel less dehydrated while exercising, you need less water than summers and thus you take fewer breaks to refresh.

Since the heart rate is less, there is a reduced usage of energy and thus a runner tends to finish off the line a few seconds earlier as compared to that in summers.

Winters are a good time for runners to work on their speed and timing.

There has been an increasing trend of practicing in hilly areas by athletes. This is because not only the rough terrains give them obstacles to pass through but also help them feel comfortable with the temperature and not face much of sweating, which can be irritating.

It is also found out by researchers that losing heat is difficult when the outer environment is already warm, thus it is much easier to lose heat and use stored energy in winters. So when you run in cold weather, you lose more heat and burn more calories. Running in winter benefits in many ways.

Researchers say that people are afraid that working out in cold weather will lead to muscle injury and lung damage. But that’s just a misconception. There is no damage unless you overwork.

The only harm that running in cold can be that due to a common notion that weight loss can be achieved or measured only on the basis of the sweat released, in winters a person sweats less and thus to feel tired and sweaty, may overwork and stress the muscles more than the capacity.

2) How Cold Is Too Cold for Running?

Have you been afraid of the cold for running and maintaining your fitness regime? Have you been thinking about how cold it is actually too cold for running? We’ve got you covered.

Firstly, there is no such thing as too cold for a person who wants to run – especially for experts and regular runners or athletes. All you need is a good cover-up in the form of clothes. You can definitely opt for workouts to burn calories in winters by opting for winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing or simply running. 

But if you’re still concerned, you can expect frostbite at -20 degrees Celsius. You can continue your running if you face a cold temperature of 0 to -15 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, you may not be able to breathe properly

3) How Does It Work?

The reduced temperatures put less stress on the body – the dehydration level and heart rate are also lower in winters. One way that we lose heat is by sweating. The other being – transporting blood to the surface of the skin.

Every movement that a runner makes produces some amount of heat and burn calories. Thus the body doesn’t have to make extra effort to pump blood to the surface of the skin. Also, to keep it warm, we shiver when we feel it’s too cold and shivering uses the energy stored in the brown fat cells – ultimately leading to a reduction in calories.

4) How Can I Run in the Winter Without Getting Sick?

Working out in cold weather might be a bit tricky as there are chances that you may fall sick if proper care is not taken. All you need to do is be appropriately prepared.

To avoid being sick while you’re burning some calories out there in the cold, you may keep a check of the following things:

▸ Do a warm-up before you hit the track to start running. A 10 min warm-up in the form of regular walking sounds perfect before running. This will get you accustomed to the weather and make you a little warm.

▸ Layer Up! To stay warm and to avoid heat dissipating from your body, dress up using various layers as they act as insulators and hold up the heat or the warmth for a longer period of time. Start with a synthetic layer inside and avoid cotton as it absorbs sweat easily.

▸ Check for signs of frostbite. If you feel numbness anywhere, try to step into a warm atmosphere before continuing your run.

▸ Stay hydrated well. We all know that we feel less thirsty in winters, but we also know that the body requires the same amount of water no matter what season it is. Try to keep a water break in the middle of your running duration – this will give you time to re-energize as well.

▸ If you’re an athlete or have recently started your sporty journey try to run during the day time as there is the sun to keep you warm naturally and you can even compensate for the deficit Vitamin D. But, to avoid burning of the skin, apply sunscreen to the exposed skin.

▸ If you run for your fitness and do not want to stay indoors even in winters – especially people who have to go to work, try and go for it when the sun starts to show – this way you stay warm naturally.

Now that you know how to protect yourself from winters while you’re off for a run, we hope that you will make an apt winter running schedule and not sit back indoors.

FAQs Related to Running in the Cold Weather

Q. Does being cold increase metabolism?

Being and surviving the cold weather means staying warm enough. To stay warm, our body shivers which happen involuntarily. It is the way the body maintains the core temperature in freezing weather conditions.

Shivering is supposed to increase the temperature of our bodies and in turn, it means boosting metabolism. So whenever you’re about to go out in the cold to exercise, the little shiver increases the metabolism and burns extra calories.

Q. How do you train for winter?

Training in winters can be tough and tricky as we’ve told above also. So pick your exercises carefully. Below can be a few options of exercises that burn more calories in winters:

  • A brisk walk
  • Skiing
  • Head out with kids and make snow angels.

These activities will keep your body in shape even if you skip a few days of hard-core training.

Also, on the other hand, if you still plan to go for a run only, keep in mind that running on an icy track might be as competent as running on a plain track. The time taken to run on icy tracks will take longer as compared to normal but will burn almost the same amount of calories.

In such cases, instead of tracking your progress and set targets based on distance, you may want to do it on the basis of time spent.

Alternatively, you can always opt for an indoor training session and take up the treadmills.

Q. Can you lose weight running in the cold?

To remain warm in the cold weather, our body works with the brown fat cells to keep us warm. The brown fat cells burn the calories to keep us warm. Therefore, when we step out in the cold weather to start a fitness regime, our body starts to burn these cells and start the healing process.

Another phenomenon that occurs to keep the body warm during cold is shivering. Again, when we step out in the cold, we shiver if we aren’t warm enough to bear the chilliness of the weather.

As a result, when we shiver, the process of thermogenesis takes place which uses the stored energy of the body to heat it up. So does shivering burn calories? Absolutely yes. Thus, when we go through a loss of energy or burning of calories, we do lose some weight even before running.

Doing an exercise in cold weather makes your muscles do extra work to stay put on the icy tracks or wet tracks. The focus shifts to all of your muscles in order to avoid slipping or hurting yourself with cramps.

So, when all of your muscles are being used, that means more use of stored energy and as a result, burning off more calories. This means, yes running in the cold weather burns more calories and we lose weight also.

Q. How do you run in cold weather?

To run in cold weather or less temperature, all you need is proper clothing, footwear and the right plan in terms of time to be spent, distance to be covered and the kind of terrain where you’ll run.

In winters, it is noticed that the due remains on the surface even through the day, therefore keeping the surfaces wet – be it roads or tracks or grassy areas. And this can be risky to run on – you may slip. Hence it is very important to check the terrain conditions, go for a run only if it is dry and non-slippery.

As an alternative, you may want to go for a walk because walking in cold weather burns more calories. 

Feature Image: Unsplash


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