We’re not out of the Winter woods yet, and it is important actively jog through the rest of this season. I know it’s cold out and how easy it is to let that cold govern you. But it’s vital to stay active in these winter months.
I know what you’re thinking: “Stop it, I’m trying to warm up!” After a few of the following slides, however, you may just warm up to the cold.
burns fat better and prevents diabetes
Most of us avoid the cold. We do everything we can to stay warm, snug and indoors during the winter months—but there are plenty of reasons to embrace and harness the power of the cold.
The cold helps weight loss and can prevent diabetes by turning ‘bad fat’ into ‘good fat.’
Much like athletes that train in higher elevations to increase their red blood cell count, scientists say that exercising in colder temperatures can help you burn more fat faster with the same amount of exercise. Part of it is simply by virtue of your body working harder to keep you warm.
The cold also causes a good kind of fat, called “brown fat,” to be created. Brown fat can increase the amount of fat you burn during physical exercise and help you get a lot more out of physical activity.
Furthermore, the cold weather can actually transform your average “white fat” into “brown fat,” meaning that you’ll burn more fat more quickly.
As if burning more fat with the same amount of exercise weren’t enough reason to go for a jog in the cold, fostering your brown fat cells can prevent Type 2 diabetes, which 50% of all people will develop in their lifetime, according to the Center for Disease Control.
avoid disease by being outside
Running outside in the cold rather than on the treadmill at the community gym helps burn that fat better, but you’re also not touching the same hot exercise machines everybody touches. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you can actually limit your chances of getting sick by spending more time outside in the winter, away from the disease-riddled people we huddle up with inside our homes, gyms, and places of work.
Insects, like mosquitos, horse flies, and other critters, mostly vanish in the cold, and the weather eliminates many of the disease carrying insects that plague us in warmer months. The risk of getting things like West Nile and other viruses contracted through contact with insects is significantly lower in frigid climes, making hiking and other outdoor activities both safer and more efficient.
In short: diseases carried by bugs and people tend to go in when it’s cold, leaving you free to go out!
fights winter depression
If you’re like me, you get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in winter, gain weight, and hunker down under an army of covers to fight off the cold.
Exercise itself releases endorphins and can be a great way to regulate mood, meaning that getting more from your exercise in terms of fat-burning and energy expended also pays dividends by pushing your sympathetic nervous system both through exercise and cold exposure. This system is what produces endorphins in the brain, which are correlated with improvement in one’s mood.
In addtion, exposure to cold weather and cold weather treatments cause electrical impulses to crackle all over the body, which scientists believe to have depression-fighting effects. This is why former NASA scientist, who studies the effect of cold temperatures on the body, has recommended going on “shiver walks” in the winter time.
let the cold in: it aids sleep & study
Many of us crank the heat inside during winter, but lowering your thermostat may actually increase the quality of your sleep. As one study suggests, “sleep time is maximal in thermoneutrality…or 16-19 degrees celcius,” or 60-67 degrees Farenheit.
Frigid weather can orient us inside to do the school work or other tasks we’ve been putting off, which is good. There is also evidence to suggest that lowering indoor temperatures to keep your brain’s CPU a bit cooler makes your brain work better. Another study suggests that 62 degrees Farenheit is the best temperature for the brain to study and process information. While we all hope to be comfortable, the study showed that temperatures we consider comfortable “lowered performance was evident.”
The mild discomfort of letting in a little cold may be worth it for a better night’s sleep and improved cognitive capabilities–not to mention that keeping lower temperatures inside will save you money and lower your carbon footprint!
Rather than cowering in the corner when the cold comes knocking, prying yourself away from bed and braving the outdoors can help build your confidence. The winter paralysis can be broken by sheer act of will. When my mind starts poo-pooing the cold, I tell myself, “Imagine how much colder it is out in space, or in a frozen Michigan lake,” which warms and encourages me.
Constantly bombarding ourselves with negative notions about the cold reinforces and justifies inactivity. Encouraging self-talks can help redefine your perspective on the cold as you focus on the benefits and build positive associations with winter weather.
Getting out there, you’ll know that, hatever the weather, you can join the mailworkers in staying active come rain, hail, sleet, or snow.
get out there!
The first step is opening the door and stepping confidently out into the cold. It may not happen overnight–start small, until you feel that encouraging hand on your back push you into the cold. The benefits of being cold can melt the paralysis, fear, and discomfort we associate with colder climates.
So get out there. Feel the burn and hug the chill. You’ll be surprised how good it feels.