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Too Cold to Exercise? Experts on How to Stay Motivated – Yet Not Overdo it

Exercising in cold weather can have a few negative effects on the body, including a greater risk of injury.

Published
Fit
4 min read
Too Cold to Exercise? Experts on How to Stay Motivated – Yet Not Overdo it
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Did you know that you're likely to burn more number of calories when you exercise during winters – simply because the body must work harder to maintain a constant body temperature?

Contrary to the common perception that it isn't safe to work out during winters, it does have its positives. However, it is crucial to follow certain dos and don'ts to not overdo any form of exercise.

FIT spoke to medical health experts and a fitness coach to explain how to stay motivated, yet careful, when exercising during cold weather.

Too Cold to Exercise? Experts on How to Stay Motivated – Yet Not Overdo it

  1. 1. What Are the Positives Of Working Out During Winter?

    Relaxes Your Muscles

    Reduced temperatures can cause muscle stiffness making even the simple act of moving your limbs painful. But this is also precisely why working out during winter is recommended – it prevents muscle stiffness, making it easier for you to perform daily activities under extreme temperature.

    "The decrease in temperature causes our blood vessels to constrict, reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrients that reach our muscles. This can lead to a decrease in muscle performance and strength, as well as increased fatigue. Working out regularly means that your muscles are relaxed, and performing regular tasks throughout the day becomes easier," Abhishek Munian, fitness coach, explained to FIT.

    Better Sleep

    Dr Shri Iyer, head of nutrition science at BUILD., a sports nutrition brand, added:

    "Working out in winter increases the release of endorphins, enhancing your mood and alertness and overall sense of well-being. It releases serotonin hormone which relaxes our body, helps you with anxiety, and improves our sleep quality."

    Improves Immunity

    Multiple studies – and experts – point out that people are more likely to fall sick with common cold and flu during the winter months.

    Dr Bela Sharma, additional director of internal medicine at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, explained that working out, along with the right nutrition, improves your immunity, and protects you from falling sick.

    "In winters, it is often observed that one gets cold very quickly. The reasons for lack of clean air in homes, the switch of dry/cold weather, dry air, and a decrease in our body's ability to defend itself. Working out improves blood circulation in your body – and keeps your body warmer. This coupled with good nutrition, can improve your overall immunity."

    Expand
  2. 2. But There Are a Few Reasons to Be Cautious

    While working out during winter has its benefits, it should also be treated with certain caution – as it could make you more susceptible to injuries, and these injuries take longer to heal during cold weather.

    "Cold muscles and joints are more prone to strains and sprains. One way to avoid this is by warming up properly before engaging in any physical activity in cold weather," Dr RK Singal, senior director & HOD, internal medicine, BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital, told FIT.

    Working Out In Winter Not For Everyone

    But working out during extreme temperature is not for everyone. People, especially suffering from diabetes, respiratory illnesses or heart disease, should consult a doctor before working out in extreme temperature.

    "The cold weather can also cause the airways to constrict, making it more difficult to breathe, especially for people with respiratory issues. One should consult their fitness routine with their doctor before indulging in exercises. This is also not the time to start a new routine," Dr Singal added.

    Never Ignore Warm-Up Exercises

    Those exercising in regions experiencing cold wave must warm-up, experts opined.

    "People often neglect the importance of a well-mapped warm-up routine and directly start their workout routine. This is a big mistake, and can simply be dangerous. It can lead to more stress on your heart than benefit it," Munian said.

    "For people working in colder temperatures, I recommend an extended warm-up session, and gradually transitioning to the workout for the day. A warm-up can last up to 25 minutes, which can be optimal to reduce the chances of injury due to improper joint mobilisation and reduced neuromuscular activation."
    Abhishek Munian, fitness coach

    Pro tip: Start with light cardio, such as jogging in place or jumping jacks, to get your blood flowing and increase your heart rate.

    Know When to Stop

    Working out in extreme weather will also be a challenge to your body. So, it is important to know when to stop – by listening to your body.

    "Exercising in extremely cold weather can put a strain on the heart, your respiratory organs. People think it is normal for them to be exercising – irrespective of the conditions outside. It is so important to pay attention to how the body is responding. Stop and seek medical attention if you experience chest pain or other warning signs of a heart attack or anything that is out of normal," Dr Iyer further explained.

    Pro tip: if you feel any signs of hypothermia, frostbite or other health issues caused by cold weather, seek help or take action immediately.

    Expand
  3. 3. Some More Handy Tips to Remember

    • If you have a trainer, discuss your meal before workout

    • Check heart rate before and during the workout

    • A light cardio before the start of the session is advisable

    • Wear multiple layers of lightweight, breathable clothing that will trap heat and help regulate your body temperature. Avoid cotton, which can become heavy and clammy when it gets wet, and instead opt for moisture-wicking fabrics that will keep you dry

    • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercising to stay hydrated. You can even sip water with electrolytes (salt and glucose) during the workout

    • Perform exercises with full range of motion – A 45-second to 1-minute rest in between sets

    • Evaluate the rate of perceived exertion, also known as RPE, during each set of the workout. The RPE is a way of measuring physical activity intensity level – i.e. how hard you feel like your body is working, with 1-2 being 'very light intensity' and 9-10 being 'maximum intensity' workouts

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Are the Positives Of Working Out During Winter?

Relaxes Your Muscles

Reduced temperatures can cause muscle stiffness making even the simple act of moving your limbs painful. But this is also precisely why working out during winter is recommended – it prevents muscle stiffness, making it easier for you to perform daily activities under extreme temperature.

"The decrease in temperature causes our blood vessels to constrict, reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrients that reach our muscles. This can lead to a decrease in muscle performance and strength, as well as increased fatigue. Working out regularly means that your muscles are relaxed, and performing regular tasks throughout the day becomes easier," Abhishek Munian, fitness coach, explained to FIT.

Better Sleep

Dr Shri Iyer, head of nutrition science at BUILD., a sports nutrition brand, added:

"Working out in winter increases the release of endorphins, enhancing your mood and alertness and overall sense of well-being. It releases serotonin hormone which relaxes our body, helps you with anxiety, and improves our sleep quality."

Improves Immunity

Multiple studies – and experts – point out that people are more likely to fall sick with common cold and flu during the winter months.

Dr Bela Sharma, additional director of internal medicine at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, explained that working out, along with the right nutrition, improves your immunity, and protects you from falling sick.

"In winters, it is often observed that one gets cold very quickly. The reasons for lack of clean air in homes, the switch of dry/cold weather, dry air, and a decrease in our body's ability to defend itself. Working out improves blood circulation in your body – and keeps your body warmer. This coupled with good nutrition, can improve your overall immunity."

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But There Are a Few Reasons to Be Cautious

While working out during winter has its benefits, it should also be treated with certain caution – as it could make you more susceptible to injuries, and these injuries take longer to heal during cold weather.

"Cold muscles and joints are more prone to strains and sprains. One way to avoid this is by warming up properly before engaging in any physical activity in cold weather," Dr RK Singal, senior director & HOD, internal medicine, BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital, told FIT.

Working Out In Winter Not For Everyone

But working out during extreme temperature is not for everyone. People, especially suffering from diabetes, respiratory illnesses or heart disease, should consult a doctor before working out in extreme temperature.

"The cold weather can also cause the airways to constrict, making it more difficult to breathe, especially for people with respiratory issues. One should consult their fitness routine with their doctor before indulging in exercises. This is also not the time to start a new routine," Dr Singal added.

Never Ignore Warm-Up Exercises

Those exercising in regions experiencing cold wave must warm-up, experts opined.

"People often neglect the importance of a well-mapped warm-up routine and directly start their workout routine. This is a big mistake, and can simply be dangerous. It can lead to more stress on your heart than benefit it," Munian said.

"For people working in colder temperatures, I recommend an extended warm-up session, and gradually transitioning to the workout for the day. A warm-up can last up to 25 minutes, which can be optimal to reduce the chances of injury due to improper joint mobilisation and reduced neuromuscular activation."
Abhishek Munian, fitness coach

Pro tip: Start with light cardio, such as jogging in place or jumping jacks, to get your blood flowing and increase your heart rate.

Know When to Stop

Working out in extreme weather will also be a challenge to your body. So, it is important to know when to stop – by listening to your body.

"Exercising in extremely cold weather can put a strain on the heart, your respiratory organs. People think it is normal for them to be exercising – irrespective of the conditions outside. It is so important to pay attention to how the body is responding. Stop and seek medical attention if you experience chest pain or other warning signs of a heart attack or anything that is out of normal," Dr Iyer further explained.

Pro tip: if you feel any signs of hypothermia, frostbite or other health issues caused by cold weather, seek help or take action immediately.

ADVERTISEMENT

Some More Handy Tips to Remember

  • If you have a trainer, discuss your meal before workout

  • Check heart rate before and during the workout

  • A light cardio before the start of the session is advisable

  • Wear multiple layers of lightweight, breathable clothing that will trap heat and help regulate your body temperature. Avoid cotton, which can become heavy and clammy when it gets wet, and instead opt for moisture-wicking fabrics that will keep you dry

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercising to stay hydrated. You can even sip water with electrolytes (salt and glucose) during the workout

  • Perform exercises with full range of motion – A 45-second to 1-minute rest in between sets

  • Evaluate the rate of perceived exertion, also known as RPE, during each set of the workout. The RPE is a way of measuring physical activity intensity level – i.e. how hard you feel like your body is working, with 1-2 being 'very light intensity' and 9-10 being 'maximum intensity' workouts

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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