The winter season can make getting to the gym and performing outdoor workouts a bit more difficult. It also doesn’t help that the chilly weather can increase your appetite for consuming calorie-dense foods.
All of this can make it tough to stick to your exercise routine and keep your diet in check. But, remember, just an hour of exercise daily is usually enough to maintain your weight loss and to avoid any weight regain (1).
There are also a few other reasons you should prioritize fitness in the winter:
1. You’ll keep your muscles in shape.
While working out alone rarely leads to significant weight loss, studies have shown that it does support body composition by helping you keep muscle. That hard-earned muscle is valuable, as it’s more metabolically active than body fat, helping you have a higher overall calorie burn and helping you make better use of carbohydrates and other calories consumed. It looks good, too.
2. You’ll keep your immune system working at its best.
Exercise in moderate amounts, followed by adequate recovery periods in between workouts, is the most beneficial exercise routine for immunity (2-4). It’s a major reason why you should be consistent with exercise during the winter instead of scaling back. Engage in moderate-intensity exercise for approximately one hour, three to five times a week.
You can also take your workout outdoors to avoid gym germs. Despite common misconceptions about staying indoors to avoid a cold, you are much more likely to pick up an illness from someone at the gym than the outdoors. Just be sure to dress appropriately and focus on your warmup.
3. You’ll stay happier.
Winter can be a time of susceptibility to the “winter blues.” However, oftentimes the sadness associated with cold weather might be due to a disruption of normal routine.
Scheduling in a daily workout, even if you’re on vacation or visiting family, can help keep structure in your day to prevent negative feelings. Additionally, exercise and getting outside can improve mood by helping your body produce more feel-good endorphins (5).
4. You can enjoy the benefits from exercising outdoors in the cold.
By exercising in slightly colder temperatures than what your body is accustomed to, your heart works harder to distribute blood flow throughout the body to keep it warm. Incorporating cold-weather workouts can strengthen your heart, and in turn, improve your endurance (6).
You might also burn extra calories because your body is working harder to keep you warm.
Don’t be afraid to try out some winter workouts this year.
- Santos I, Vierira PN, Silva MN, Sardinha LB, and Teixeira PJ. Weight control behaviors of highly successful weight loss maintainers: the Portuguese Weight Control Registry. J Behav Med. 2017 Apr; 40(2): 366-71. doi: 1007/s10865-016-9786-y.
- Gleeson M. Immune function in sport and exercise. J Appl Physiol. 2007 Aug; 103: 693-699. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00008.2007.
- Nieman DC. Moderate exercise improves immunity and decreases illness rates. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2011 Apr 28; 5(4): 338-345. doi: 10.1177/1559827610392876.
- Matthews CE, Ockene IS, Freedson PS, Rosal MC, Merriam PA, and Hebert JR. Moderate to vigorous physical activity and risk of upper-respiratory tract infection. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Aug; 34(8): 1242-8.
- Melrose S. Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depress Res Treat. 2015;2015:178564. doi: 10.1155/2015/178564. Epub 2015 Nov 25.
- Hessemer V, Langusch D, Brück LK, Bödeker RH, Breidenbach T. Effect of slightly lowered body temperatures on endurance performance in humans. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol. 1984 Dec;57(6):1731-7.