When winter comes and the temperature drops, it can be difficult for even for the most committed runners to feel motivated to go outside for a run. Who wants to get off a warm, cozy couch when Netflix just dropped a new season of your favorite show? You might ask yourself: is it even healthy to run outdoors when it’s cold?
The answer is, of course, yes! Whether hot or cold, running is a great way to improve your health, including strength building, cardiovascular fitness, and weight management. When it’s done safely, there are several reasons to muster your strength and keep up your outdoor running routine into the winter months.
Combat Seasonal Blues
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a common mild depressive condition that happens when there are fewer daylight hours, and we spend less time outside.
Running, and the dopamine and endorphins it releases, can help combat depression and boost your mood naturally.
Some studies indicate that people who exercise outdoors are more consistent with their workouts and have higher energy levels and less depression. One study found that spending just 30 minutes per week in outdoor green spaces could reduce the rate of depression by 7%.
If you start to feel yourself succumb to the winter blues, consider getting out for a quick run.
Manage Winter Weight Gain
Let’s face it, winter is a season of weight gain, thanks to the combination of less movement and more calories. As mentioned above, fewer sunlight hours and colder temps make it harder to get outside and move.
Plus, holiday meals, treats, and drinks are often blamed for extra pounds. Studies have shown that in winter, people consume 100 calories more per day and more saturated fat than they do in the spring.
Whether you do it inside our outdoors, a running routine can help combat the winter weight. But by running outdoors, you may burn 5% to 7% more calories compared to running inside on a treadmill. Running outdoors provides more wind resistance and lacks the propelling motion of a treadmill, so you actually have to do a little more work.
Soak in the sunlight
If you live in a colder climate, you can’t always be guaranteed a sunny day for your outdoor run, but if the sun does peak out from behind the clouds, suit up and go for that run. Sunlight is an important source of vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient for mood and energy, bone density, and immunity. Studies have shown that more than 40% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, so it’s a good idea to take in the sunshine when you can.
Stay motivated longer
Believe it or not, when you exercise outdoors, even in cold weather, you’re more like to do for longer! Exercising outdoors has been shown to increase positive, refreshed feelings; reduce tension and anger; and boost energy. Simply put, it’s more enjoyable than being cooped up indoors.
The greater enjoyment from outdoor exercise makes it more likely that you’ll do it again. Furthermore, people who engage in moderate to vigorous exercise outside at least once per week are likely to exercise for longer. But who’s counting? The important thing is to keep moving!
When is it too cold to run outside?
Running outside in the cold is generally OK, as long as you do it safely and to your level of comfort. When the temperature really drops, be sure to dress properly in layers and limit your time outside. Be attuned to the risk of frostbite on exposed body surfaces, such as fingers and parts of your face. Also, be aware of frozen surfaces to limit your risk of falls. And always hydrate! Even though you may not feel it as acutely as in the warmer months, you do still sweat when running in the cold.
There are many health benefits to running in cold weather, and even if you’re just starting out, a simple 20-30 minute run can still provide plenty of great benefits.
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