5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in Winter
1. You burn more calories
temperature. Jo Zimmerman, an instructor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Maryland and a trainer, tells the Washington Post:
“If you are making athletic-level effort — cycling hard, running at a training level — you are burning 10 to 40 percent more calories in the cold than you would in more temperate temperatures.”
According to the CalorieLab website, a 150-pound individual will burn the following number of calories when engaging in one hour of these winter activities:
2. You strengthen bones
Cabin fever is not the only risk associated with hibernating indoors during the winter months. Staying inside also deprives you of sunlight, which, in turn, can reduce production of vitamin D inside your body.
You need vitamin D for strong bones. Lynn Millar, chair and professor of physical therapy at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, tells the Arthritis Foundation:
“Vitamin D is important for keeping bones strong; it’s particularly important for people with arthritis who take corticosteroids because they have an increased risk of brittle bones.”
Unfortunately, you need to expose your skin to sunlight to get this benefit. That is tricky — and potentially dangerous — in northern climes. So, this tip might work best in the South and parts of the West, where temperatures regularly soar into the 50s, 60s and beyond in winter.
As little as 15 minutes of sun exposure can produce a lot of vitamin D in fair-skin people, according to the Vitamin D Council. You might need more exposure if your skin is darker.
3. You stay healthier
It might seem like spending all that time in the ice and snow would make you more vulnerable to colds and the flu. But it is more likely that your outdoor activity will boost your immune system.A 2015 study found that exercise strengthens your immune system by repeatedly stressing it. Although the study focused on the effect of exercise in animals, researchers believe the findings translate to humans as well.According to Yoonkyung Park, a professor of biomedical science at South Korea’s Chosun University who oversaw the research:“We strongly believe that long-term, regular exercise can considerably improve the immune defense mechanism.”
4. You raise your spirits
Do the cold, dark days of winter leave you feeling down? One of the best ways to banish the winter blues is to embrace the very weather that is making your spirits sag.
Wojtek J. Chodzko-Zajko, head of the department of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, tells the Wall Street Journal:
“Going for a walk in the park after a fresh snowfall is one of the most exhilarating, stress-reducing things I can think of.”
Just five minutes of activity can begin to lift your mood, and a sustained exercise regimen can help alleviate long-term depression, according to the American Psychological Association.