Running in the cold might not seem appealing, but exercising when the temperature drops can bring unique health benefits.
It’s dreary, cold and dark outside, which means going for a run might not be on your winter exercise regime. The treadmill certainly sounds like the more appealing option, but before you head to the warmth of the gym, consider the benefits of heading out in the cold.
There are many different types of fat in your body - white fat, brown fat and a few shades in between. White fat is the unwanted body fat that everybody wants to get rid of, but brown fat is the metabolic tissue that will burn calories. It has been revealed by Molecular Cell in a recent study that exposing your body to the cold can help to turn white fat into brown.¹
Therefore, running in the winter will not only burn calories, but it could even change your body composition. It’s important to follow some simple steps for winter running though to help you steer clear of injury and illness.
Don’t try to set any records
Running in the cold will lead to slower times as a natural result of your blood vessels constricting, which means joints feel stiffer and it gets much harder to warm your muscles up. This also means it is especially important to warm up properly before you go for a run in the cold.
Jog on the spot for five minutes, do some star jumps, hop about - anything to get your muscles going and the blood flowing around your body. You should also make sure to stretch out your muscles at the end of your work out.
Dress for the weather
As with every trip out into the cold you need to wear enough clothes. Layering is key, with loose, light garments helping to trap warm air and protect you from the cold. If you wear too many layers you’ll get very hot quickly though, which is uncomfortable. Ideally you want to dress as if it’s about 5 or 6 degrees warmer than it actually is outside.²
Choose the layers you require based on how cold it is; a synthetic base layer or ‘skin’ as they have come to be known will help to get rid of the moisture from your skin as you sweat. A wool or fleece insulator will hold the body heat and insulate you. On top you should wear something waterproof and windproof.
It’s also important to cover your extremities. Wearing gloves and a hat is a great way of making sure you avoid frostbite if particularly cold outside. If you feel any part of your skin starting to sting or feel numb then turn around and head home.
Reflective clothing is a must if you are running in the winter. Visibility can get very bad very quickly due to fog, rain, sleet and any other sort of poor weather. The sun also sets very quickly in winter, so as the evenings draw in you need to make sure you’ll be seen by motorists, dog walkers and anybody else who is out and about. If you are going to be running where there isn’t any street lighting it might be an idea to take a headlamp or torch to light up your path.
Don’t slip up
Another important aspect of your attire is what you have on your feet. Dropping temperatures and rain can lead to icy pavements and roads, which are clearly dangerous for runners. If the grip or tread on your trainers is worn down then you won’t have enough traction to stay on your feet if you happen to hit an icy patch. You should also shorten up your stride so that you will be less likely to lose balance if you land on a slippery surface.³
Before you leave the house make sure you plan your route so that if you do slip over you are in a location where you will be found easily. Take your phone with you as well so that you can call for help if you end up in trouble.
If you want to find out more about winter running and how it could benefit your health then make an enquiry about one of our Health Assessments today.
To book your consultation call us on 0808 101 0337.