Is Working Out in the Cold Really Harder?
According to the Cooper Heart Institute, yes, working out in the cold is truly more challenging. Your muscles have to work harder, as the cold contracts your blood vessels, slowing blood flow to your heart, which requires more oxygen to keep your body warm. The entire blood and muscle systems run slower. The shivering reflex is made to compensate for the low oxygen supply: your muscles involuntarily contract to raise your body temperature and increase blood and oxygen flow.
That is not to say you should avoid working out. While some internal processes slow down, your job is to keep yourself moving daily to keep your health intact. Daily movement is mandatory, even if you don't manage an hour-long workout. We won't count the health benefits of a good workout, as they're widely known and too many to count, but we would emphasize that working out can help you combat the winter blues if you have it. And yes, dancing it off is a sufficient workout if you do it long enough!
Insulation & Workout Gear
Layering more clothes goes without saying: in the cold weather, it's an instinct. We would only suggest taking gloves and a hat with you to keep the extremities and the head warm, as body heat escapes more easily from them. Invest in lightweight, insulating, but breathable garments that are specifically made for outdoor activity in cold weather. Your mesh running shoes from summer won't suffice - swap them for waterproof workout gear and breathable socks. Look for the word polypropylene on your garment tags.
A word on safety: you need to make sure you're visible from a distance. Dark hours are now extended, and the lighting isn't optimal, so wearing bright colors and light reflectors will keep you safe.
Mind Your Muscles
How many of us tend to skip the primary stage of the workout? We're talking about warm-up, of course. Remember that the body isn't a machine that can be switched on and off with the flick of a switch: you have to gradually warm up your muscles into a high-intensity workload to prevent injuries. A full-body warm-up will help you break a sweat before going outside for your jog or bike ride. Pick a minimum of 2 exercises from these collections:
The cold will be merciless on your warm, malleable, post-workout muscles. If you don't have one, consider investing in a foam roller to help you recover easily from the workout.
If working out outside was never your thing, there are still some warmer indoor options for you: a spin class, an indoor pool, your home treadmill, or a hot yoga class.
Guided Indoor Workouts
Sometimes, you're ready for a workout, but the weather or any other factor makes you stay at home. Most of the workouts below don't require any equipment!
You can use this warmup before leaving the house on nicer days:
1. A 10-minute cardio warmup, all levels, no equipment:
2. A full walking workout, all levels, no equipment:
3. An arm-toning workout, beginner to intermediate, 2 dumbbells:
4. A full-body workout, beginner to intermediate, 1 dumbbell:
H/T: NBCNews, SelectHealth.