When winter hits and temperatures drop, we often want to hibernate indoors where it’s dry and warm.
And while there’s no shame in transitioning to a treadmill to get your miles in when conditions aren’t safe (such as ice), cold temperatures alone shouldn’t deter you from outdoor running.
Cold temperatures are actually ideal for running. In one study, the best race performances appear to happen around 40 degrees, and for every 5-degree rise in temperature, the performance dropped by 2.7 seconds per mile.
In fact, with the right planning, clothing and equipment, you might be surprised to know that there are five benefits to running in cold weather that you won’t necessarily see as the weather warms up.
During a cold weather run, you’ll be creating less inflammation, which can speed up your post-workout recovery.
Just remember to warm up before you head out and cool down (and stretch) when you’re done. It’s far too easy for runners to skip both and suffer the consequences later.
Boosting your mood
Seasonal Affective Disorder affects millions of Americans as the days get shorter and colder. In other words, many people can experience feelings of depression as the weather changes. This is caused by less exposure to natural light throwing off our circadian rhythms.
Fortunately, training outdoors during daylight can help reset those rhythms. Running helps release good-for-you hormones, such as endorphins, as well that can help you battle these feelings.
In fact, a study concluded that people who exercise outdoors consistently reported increased energy levels, decreased levels of depression and were more likely to exercise regularly.
Faster pace with less effort
When running in hot weather, our body’s blood flow increases to our extremities to help us sweat and cool our bodies naturally. On the flip side, when the weather is cold, this gives us more central blood volume, which allows us to run at a lower heart rate for the same pace. The difference can be up to 15 beats per minute fewer.
So, the colder the weather, the less heat stress on the body. This makes it easier to run, which could be a reason to incorporate more speed workouts during the winter months.
Strengthening your immune system
Being more sedentary during the winter months can make you more prone to illness.
Exposing yourself to physical conditions, such as the cold, can make your body better at dealing with stress overall.
In addition, the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D. A deficiency of vitamin D can cause weight gain, moodiness, lowered immune system responses and inflammation.
According to one study, our bodies tend to store more fat in the winter (especially when exercising less), which can slow down our metabolism.
Winter running can help prevent that metabolic slowdown so that you can maintain a healthier weight year-round. In fact, you actually burn more calories when running in the cold because your body expends more energy attempting to raise your core temperature, which results in a higher calorie burn than running indoors on a treadmill (or another equal workout indoors).
There’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing (and planning). With the right layers and gear, you can take advantage of cold-weather running benefits so that you can beat the winter blues and stay healthy year-round.
Kaia FIT is a women’s fitness and nutrition program that empowers women to become the best version of themselves through personalized coaching in a group environment. We prioritize community to help connect women to each other for additional support and accountability. Caren Roblin is the owner of Kaia FIT Sierra, with four studio locations in Reno-Sparks.