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Beating the Winter Blahs

The Benefits of Cold Weather Workouts

This is a guest post from my very own personal trainer, Keith Wimsett of O3 Health and Fitness here in Asheville; when it comes to increasing performance and maximizing potential in the realm of fitness, this guy knows his stuff!

When daylight hours grow short and temperatures plummet, it’s tempting to drop a workout or two per week. It’s hard to pry yourself out of bed when the sun’s not up, and the covers are so cozy and warm.

We all know the benefits achieved by sticking to our fitness routine year-round, but did you know there are additional health / well-being benefits that are specific to working out in colder temps? Here’s what the science tells us winter workouts provide:

1. Higher Calorie Burn and More Energy
Your body’s got to work harder when you work out in the cold; it’s not only called upon to burn calories and fat to produce enough energy to support your workout, but it needs to burn even more to keep you warm out there. This speeds metabolism and provides more energy, which helps you to stay sharp and focused throughout your day.

2. Improved Endurance Performance
Workouts in cold weather strengthen your heart, lungs and circulatory system, which improves your overall health, and trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently. When you use oxygen more efficiently, performance improves – a Northern Arizona University study found that adding regular cold weather workouts can improve running speeds by 29%.

3. Super-Charged Immune System
Regular cold-weather training boosts the immune system, and a strong immune system is your best defense against winter colds and flu. An Iowa University report showed that 45 minutes of running per day reduces the risk of contracting the flu during winter months; the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research found that winter workouts can cut your flu risk by 20 – 30%.

4. Happiness!
Many folks suffer from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) due to the decreased number of daylight hours. A brisk outdoor workout increases your exposure to sunlight, which ups your body’s ability to produce Vitamin D, and produces “feel good” endorphins that trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin, all of which significantly elevate mood.

The best medicine for the winter blahs? Endurance training. According to a Duke University study, 30-minute cardio circuit workouts (think squat jumps, push ups, shuttle runs, chin ups – all regular parts of our O3 Afterburn and Foundations classes) not only enhanced fitness, but also delivered big-time improvements in participants’ feelings of overall well-being.

So get out there, enjoy the cold, and reap the benefits only cold weather workouts can give! As with any outdoor routine, keep it safe. Be sure to hydrate before, during and after your workout, wear layers, don’t forget the hat and gloves, and watch out for ice and slippery conditions.

And hey, if it’s ever too cold out there for you, c’mon into the gym. You may come in cold, but you definitely won’t leave that way. I personally guarantee it!

Dr. Will