Health benefits of exercising in cold temperatures

GREAT FALLS — Exercise is important any time of the year, but can become especially crucial when fighting the wintertime blues, better known as seasonal depression. Frigid temperatures frequently keep central Montana residents cooped up inside for days on end. While it is not recommended to exercise with air temperatures below zero, carving out time to exercise on 30 or 40 degree days can make all the difference when it comes to seasonal depression.

Shivering is essentially the body keeping its temperature at a healthy equilibrium. It also aids in the body’s fat-burning abilities, however simply going outdoors to shiver does not translate to weight loss. Shivering during a workout increases its intensity and can end up leading to a more substantial workout.

According to Don Johnson, a personal trainer at The Peak in Great Falls, “When you start getting cold, the blood goes into the most important part of our body — the organs or the stomach area. That’s why it takes heat away from our limbs and our fingers and toes get cold.” Thus, it is important to keep track of the weather and especially the wind chill. The wind chill is what the body feels and responds to, not the air temperature.

Don recommends heading outdoors and doing a light warm-up ahead of the workout. He explains, “I would not do a lot of jumping jacks or anything like that. Start out with knee lifts and I recommend about 3 to 5 minutes before you start your workout.”

As much as outdoor exercise during wintertime can improve physical health, it also works to improve mental health. Don explains, “The advantage of being outdoors in the wintertime is number one — fresh air. Cool, fresh air. The other thing is the sun is not quite as bright, you’re still going to get a little bit of vitamin D but it’s going to be easier on your skin.”

It is recommended that you check in with your doctor prior to carrying out your outdoor workout plans as the cold can affect those with heart conditions differently.

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