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Why Exercising In Cold Weather Is Better.

exercising in cold weather

Who said exercising in cold weather is better? Well, as it turns out, lots of people.

Picture this, it’s daylight savings, you walk in the door, flip off your shoes and the afternoon sun still is high in the sky and that dopamine is flowing like a glass of Otago Pinot Noir. Of course, heading off to the gym or for a run is easy.

Let’s look at the flip side. You’re driving home, it’s almost dark, the heater is on but barely making a difference, the temperature drops suddenly and all you want to do is get home into your warm house and snuggle in a warm blanket, of course, it could be difficult to motivate yourself to step outside for a workout right?

Before you give up and enjoy a day inside in winter, have you ever thought about the benefits of exercising in the cold weather? Let’s break it down – because judging by the evidence, the pros outweigh the cons:

#1 – Significant Health Boost

When your body has to work harder to keep warm, you end up burning more calories. Plus, a little bit of exposure to cooler temps may be just what your immune system needs.

Research has found that cold weather can stimulate the production of white blood cells, which are essential to the body’s ability to fight off infections and illness.

So, if you want to stay fit and fend off winter colds at the same time, a brisk outdoor workout may be just what the doctor ordered.

#2 – Increased Calorie Burn

Exercising when it’s cold outside to shed those extra winter pounds? Turns out, you may shed the weight faster than if you opted for a run (or bike ride) in the balmy weather.

Your body uses more calories to keep your temperature up in the cold, which means you’ll be burning them faster than normal.

study found that exercising in lower temperatures can increase the body’s production of a hormone called irisin, which converts white fat to brown fat.

Brown fat, in case you’re not familiar, burns calories to generate heat. The takeaway: If you’re looking to slim down for summer, you might not want to wait until the weather is warm.

#3 – Mood Booster

girl happy mood

Winter days can be long, often leaving to go to work in the dark and travelling home in the dark doesn’t leave one’s self in the best frame of mind each day.

We’ve found that exercising in cold weather isn’t just good for your physical health—it’s also great for your mood. There’s just something about breathing in the crisp, fresh air and feeling a bit of a chill on your cheeks. It’s hard for sure, but you’ll get what I mean when you’re home again.

Plus, the endorphins you get from a good sweat session are great for chasing away the winter blues. 

#4 – Less Crowded Gym

When it’s officially too cold for most people to brave the trek to the gym, you’re probably fewer people trickling in.

With the drop in temperature comes a drop in gym-goers, and fewer lines for machines are something we can all get on board with. 

#5- Enhanced Mental Toughness

You have got to be pretty tough to lace up your sneakers and brave the bitter cold, and that’s exactly why cold-weather workouts foster mental resilience like no other.

Pushing through discomfort and taking the elements head-on can leave you feeling stronger, more determined, and ready to tackle anything life throws your way.

This is also one of the reasons why cold-water plunges have experienced an uptake in popularity as they benefit in a similar way.

#6 – Improved Respiratory Health

Surprisingly, working out in the cold air can actually be great for your lungs. Cold air can help reduce inflammation of the airways, causing an increase in lung function over time.

Also, increased ventilation that comes with heavy breathing while working out in cold weather can increase oxygen uptake, ultimately enhancing overall respiratory efficiency.

So, take a deep breath and embrace the frosty air — your lungs will thank you!

#7 – Better Sleep Quality

Did you know cold weather sweat sessions are tied to better sleep? It’s true! Working out helps regulate your body’s internal clock and promotes the release of those feel-good hormones called serotonin and dopamine, which are perfect for leading you into a deeper, more restful slumber.

Not to mention, the cool-down period that follows a cold weather workout will help to lower your core body temperature, making it easier for you to fall asleep and remain asleep throughout the night.

#8 – Immune System Support

Believe it or not, exposing yourself to the cooler temperatures associated with cold weather exercise can give your immune system a boost, prepping it to better (and more easily) fend off pesky bacteria and infections.

Exercising in cold weather stimulates the production of white blood cells, which work to fight illness while keeping the body healthy. 

#9 – Increase Vitamin D Levels

December gloom and winter sun mean we’ll take all the vitamins we can get, and luckily, all it takes is a thin crack in the clouds for the sun’s rays to poke through.

And when they do, it’s a good time to soak up some healthy, mood- and immune-boosting vitamin D.

Vitamin D is critical to bone health, immune function, and mood regulation, so the more you can catch (responsibly, with SPF), the better.

Safe Ways of Exercising in Cold Weather

Here are proven tips for safely exercising in cold weather:

  • Dress in layers: Depending on how cold it is, your first layer should be something that wicks moisture away from the skin. Followed up with an insulating layer, such as fleece. Top it off with anything that’s windproof and waterproof. Don’t wear anything that retains moisture, especially cotton.
  • Protect skin: Make sure you protect your exposed parts with gloves or mittens, a hat or beanie, and thick, warm socks.
  • Stay visible: Make sure that you can be, especially when it’s dark. Reflective clothing and accessories will help you stand out, even to drivers.
  • Warm up indoors: If possible, warm up indoors with a quick round of jumping jacks to get your blood pumping, before heading out the door. Getting your body temperature up before you go into the cold will help you avoid injury.
  • Hydrate: The cold can make you feel less thirsty than you are, so drink plenty of water, before, during, and after your workout. Always carry an insulated water bottle.
  • Be wary of ice: Watch your step for ice patches or choose a path that’s been cleared of snow and ice. Wear footwear with good traction and consider ice cleats if needed.
  • Listen to your body: Familiarize yourself with symptoms of hypothermia (shivering, confusion, slurred speech) and frostbite (numbness, tingling, pale or blue skin), and what to do if they occur. If you don’t feel well, don’t push your boundaries, and immediately go indoors to warm up.

So based on my personal experience,

Whether you’re plunging in an ice bath, or taking a walk outside in the rain mid-winter exercising in cold weather certainly needs motivation. One of the biggest things that have made me ‘turn up’ is having an accountability partner.

When it’s 6am, raining, and you have organised to meet your friend down the road for a run, you’re motivated to get out of bed and meet them. You don’t want to let them down, so choose an accountability parter because your 67% more likely to acheive your health goals when you do and that in itself – is motivating.

Make sure you’re consistent with a winter routine because every cell of your being, will thank you for it later down the track.


  • Dale Folland

    Dale is a seasoned Nutritionist with over two decades of experience in the health and wellness industry. His expertise has been sought after by elite groups such as NZ SAS Soldiers and NZ Fire Service, where he has contributed to optimising their performance and well-being. Dale is also a renowned speaker and educator and his work has been recognised in publications like the Daily Mail and various US media outlets.

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