Fitness: The benefits of working out in cold weather this winter

Winter may be coming, but that's no reason to hide from your workouts – Freezing cold conditions can actually help your fitness

Man working out cold
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As the Starks kept telling us for eight long years of TV, Winter is Coming. As the weather begins to get colder, darker and rainier, many of us are unwilling to go running or exercise outdoors, thanks to the cold climate and shorter daylight hours. 

Of course, we could just stay home with the home exercise gear bought in the pandemic. However, it's best to shop around for some cold-weather gear, as studies find you shouldn't be skipping exercise just because it's a bit colder out.

A recent study conducted by researchers from the Medical University of Vienna found cold ambient temperatures correlated to higher levels of vitamin A in our bodies. Vitamin A helps us convert "bad" white fat tissue into "good" brown fat, which is burned for fuel during physical exercise and and heat generation. 

The more we get out in the cold, the more heat our bodies need to generate. The more heat we need to generate, the more fat our bodies harvest for fuel. Getting out into the cold for a run or short walk can expose our bodies to the cold, speeding up the process of fat loss. 

The study authors write: "More than 90% of the body fat depots in humans are white which are typically located at the abdomen, bottom, and upper thighs. Converting white into brown fat could be a new therapeutic option to combat weight gain and obesity."

Woman training cold weather

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Aston University researchers also found other benefits to cold-weather training. In a report published on the university's website, it's found cold weather requires your body to work harder during training, including your cardiovascular system.

In cold weather, your heart naturally works harder to pump blood around the body, which is why exercising regularly in cold weather will help you get even fitter than you ordinarily would. 

When the weather becomes warmer again next year, you'll have to exercise more intensely to reach the point of exhaustion, because the weather won't be slowing you down anymore.  

Research tells us exercising in the cold weather can also improve our immune systems, which is vital especially during the global health crisis, and boost our mood – great for suffers of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.