While Mother Nature hasn’t exactly decided what season she would like it to be, the warmer wintertime temperatures are inviting folks to take on the great outdoors.
Traditionally, colder weather doesn’t encourage being out of doors – instead, making staying warm inside a chosen activity for many.
However, studies show that heading outdoors can improve your overall health and encourage a healthier lifestyle.
Check out the following benefits of winter exercise.
Extra calorie burn
As the body works harder to regulate its core temperature when exposed to the winter elements, you’ll burn a few more calories during a wintry workout compared to one conducted indoors. Also note that calorie burn varies with each person’s body mass and the extremity of the temperature.
Strengthening the heart
Cold weather also makes the heart work harder to distribute blood throughout the body. For an unhealthy heart that struggles to manage the additional stress, this process can exacerbate illness and injury. But regular exercisers with cardiovascular endurance can make their heart muscles even stronger with these cold-weather sessions, better preparing the body for more strenuous workouts in the future along with other non-exercise stresses in life.
Consume more H2O
Staying hydrated is one of the most important factors in minimizing the dangers of cold-weather workouts. The body continues to sweat, but that sweat evaporates more quickly into the chilly, dry air, making it seem as though the body is losing less water. Drinking water before, during and after cold-weather workouts helps maintain peak performance, protect the body from injury and keep warm from start to finish.
Build tolerance for the cold
While it can feel painful to force yourself out into the elements for the first workout of the winter season, regular outdoor workouts ensure
that battling the winter elements will become easier.
Experts recommend adjusting your expectations as you acclimate to the weather, rather than pushing for your typical, temperate-weather performance. Pay particular attention to the amount of effort you’re putting forth rather than hitting certain time, distance or other performance goals, and try to just enjoy the process.
Proper warm-up and cool-down movements are crucial to keeping the body in top fitness shape, but they become even more important when it’s cold outside. Keeping the body loose, limber and warm for a chilly workout can help prevent painful twists, sprains, tears and other injuries. Winter workouts will encourage you to become a pro when it comes to full warm-up and cool-down routines, the former to keep your internal body temperature elevated, and the latter to reduce unnecessary tightness inspired by the chill in the air.
Happy and energized
Cold-weather exercise also has the ability to boost one’s mood, thanks to the lack of humidity (which creates that heavy air feeling in the summer months) and the stimulating aspect of the chill. As the body works harder to stay warm, the amount of endorphins produced also increases, leaving you with a stronger sense of happiness and lightness following a workout in the cold.
Tips for hiking in the cold
Wear layers. Though it feels frigid at the trailhead, your body starts to generate heat after just 10 to 15 minutes of walking, especially if you’ve chosen a strenuous trail.
Still, layering is important to staying warm and maintaining a consistent temperature on the hike and at the top of the mountain, where it may be even colder than at the trailhead.
When you layer, remember: A base layer wicks moisture off your body. Layers or no layers, always remember to avoid cotton. Once wet, cotton no longer insulates you from the cold. It also wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk for hypothermia.
Other important winter hiking apparel includes hats, gloves, extra socks and scarves.
Keep your feet warm. Keep your feet dry to keep them warm on the trail. A good pair of hiking socks, made of wool blends or synthetic fabrics wicks moisture away from your skin and, when wet, retains heat and dries quickly. Keep an extra pair in your pack, just in case.
Above-the-ankle hiking boots are helpful in keeping snow away from your feet.
Consider the terrain. In mid-winter, the snow may be too deep to hike high into the mountains. Hike at lower elevations, and wear snow shoes, to ensure safety on the trail. Bring hiking poles, as well. These help you maintain balance on sections of trail with slick ice and snow.
Stay fueled. Hiking in the cold, especially in the snow, burns more calories. Avoid complications and bring plenty of high-energy snacks.
When packing your snacks, remember to watch out for foods that can freeze solid, such as power bars. Instead of storing food in your backpack, put small snacks inside your fleece jacket. Your body should generate enough heat to prevent them from freezing. Also, remember to keep hydrated.