You’ll Fight Winter Fatigue
If you’re feeling lazier when the temperature drops, you’re not alone. Shorter days mean less sunlight, so your brain produces more melatonin in response, leaving you fatigued. Your body is also producing less vitamin D than it’s used to, which can cause tiredness. Vitamin D is vital for the regulation of genes, strengthening bones and improving your immune system, among other benefits.
Doing outdoor exercise like walking, jogging, cycling for just 20 minutes a day will give your body necessary sunlight exposure for a boost of vitamin D. This will fortify your physical and mental health and lift feelings of weariness.
You’ll Alleviate Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterised by regular depressive periods during the winter months, and non-depressive periods during spring and summer. Sunlight is one of the best treatments for SAD because of vitamin D, hence the alleviation of symptoms during the summer months.
Another great treatment? Regular exercise. Simply put, any form of moderate-intensity exercise gives participants a mind-body connection, which will reduce symptoms of SAD.
Whether you choose to workout outdoors or indoors, doing aerobic exercise or yoga for an extended period and focusing on that movement will help release feel-good hormones such as endorphins and enkephalins, which are proven to improve mood. The increased blood and oxygen circulation will also improve your motivation, thus the feeling of a “runner’s high.”
You’ll Burn More Calories
There’s a cool phenomenon that happens when working out in colder weather. But first, a crash course: our bodies produce two types of fat, brown and white.
White fat (white adipose tissue (WAT)) is the predominant form of fat in the body, and because of its cellular composition, stores extra energy. White fat is the fat that mostly shows up in your thighs, hips, abdomen, buttocks, and breasts. White fat is not only needed for insulation, but it also helps with hormone regulation during stressful times.
Just like anything else, too much white fat can be a problem; it can increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, it can also mess with the bodies metabolising of nutrients.
At the maximum, it can increase our risk of developing certain types of cancers. On the other hand, brown fat (brown adipose tissue (BAT)) is found on the back of the neck and upper back. Brown fat burns calories and helps us maintain a healthy weight. Rather than act as an energy reservoir, brown fat’s purpose is to burn those calories.
Everything from exercise, diet, and sleep can affect brown fat conversion. Healthy levels of these create fat balance in the body and reduce stress, so get a good night’s sleep and eat nutritious, whole foods in addition to exercising regularly.
Outdoor cold weather activities do convert some of the white fat to brown or beige fat. When the body needs to generate heat, it will metabolise brown fat so that it does its job of burning calories.
So while you may think it’s not in your favour to go outside for a run or a walk when it's cold, you’re actually increasing calories burned.
It’ll Boost Your Immune and Heart Health
Cold weather will increase the heart rate and systolic blood pressure. It also naturally starts thermoregulation so the body can return to homeostasis (hello, brown fat conversion). This is beneficial for the body. It’s also easier for bodies to regulate temperature in cold versus hot weather extremes and for individuals to exercise for prolonged periods.
Those aren’t the only benefits. Cold weather also kills off microorganisms and disease-carrying insects. Not to mention it can partially inhibit inflammatory responses commonly associated with warmer weather workouts. Simply put, the cold air acts as a natural ice pack.
Any movement is going to stimulate the body in a beneficial way. Regardless of where you live during the winter months end of the year, it’s important to get outside and get physical. A little sweat never hurt anyone.
Holly Geraghty is a fully qualified PT, small business owner and mother of two. She specialises in helping women get back to their best of health with a supportive and 'tailored to each' approach. Follow Holly on Instagram and drop her a DM to see how she could help you!