Working Out in Cold And Hot Weather

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Getting out of a nice and cozy warm bed to go outside and exercise when it is freezing cold may not be your idea of a good time. But exercising in the cold has several benefits over doing it in warm weather. Specifically, it:

Burns more calories

It’s true, exercising outdoors in the winter ramps up your metabolism and in the end, you burn more calories than if you had exercised in warm weather. Part of the reason is it takes more energy to keep your body warm when it is cold outside. Depending on what you are doing, the exercise itself can burn a lot of calories. Take cross country skiing at a brisk speed for example; calories burned are 544 per hour. Snowshoeing is another high calorie winter sport at 476 calories per hour. And both sports are something different from your normal routine so they can prevent boredom, not to mention the wonderful landscape you’ll see.

Builds endurance

Your body must work harder in the winter to get the same amount of work accomplished. Thus, it builds your heart and cardiovascular system, along with increasing lung capacity. Workout all winter outside and you’ll be in much better shape when spring comes around. This means you can do more right off the bat instead of having to work up to the performance level you were at before winter set in.

Invigorates the mind and body

There is just something about doing intense winter workouts outside in the cold. For one, it will add some rosiness to your cheeks; the air smells fresher; because you are out in the sunshine, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is less of an issue; you are getting your vitamin D; the list of benefits go on and on.


However, working out in cold weather does have some cautions to be aware of:

  • Dress in layers so that as your body heats up, you can peel off a layer or two to remain at a comfortable body temperature. Otherwise it is easy to get overheated.
  • Wear a hat and gloves. Frostbite can be a real issue in cold weather. Covering extremities will prevent it. Don’t forget about your feet by wearing a thick pair of socks.
  • Wear sunglasses. Snow blindness is prevalent when out in the snow. If you have ever had it, you already know how uncomfortable it is.
  • Wear a scarf over your nose and mouth. Breathing in cold air can cause some respiratory issues, but by breathing through a scarf the air is warmed more before it gets to your lungs.
  • Keep hydrated. Even though you may not feel like you are losing water, you are both through perspiration and breathing.
  • If you are running or walking, watch where you are going. Avoid stepping on ice if you can. If you must cross it, do so with caution.

Ok, now you have no excuses for not working out in cold weather. Get off your butt and enjoy the cold weather instead of vegging out in front of the TV and eating food that is not good for you, or being cooped up inside a sweaty gym. Enjoy the winter season!

How Can Hot Weather Affect Your Workout Performance?

If not conditioned properly, even the fittest of athletes will eventually succumb to high heat and humidity. The two body conditions that take them down are abnormally high core temperature and dehydration. But with the proper conditioning, working out in hot weather can improve your performance.

In a study of 12 very high-level cyclists who rode in 100-degree heat with 30% humidity over a ten-day period, the University of Oregon found that test group of cyclists showed a 7% improvement over the control group who rode in 55-degree temperature with 30% humidity. While 7% doesn’t sound like much, it is significant for cyclists.

You can improve your performance too through conditioning.  Various studies have shown the optimal conditions for acclimation seem to be a temperature of 101 degrees Fahrenheit, and working out for 60 minutes per day for 5 to 10 days. This will increase your body core temperature enough to get the improved hot weather benefit in performance.

But there are also dangers that you must be aware of. Doing too much too soon can lead to a heat-related illness which can range from cramping to heatstroke – the latter condition which can be fatal.

To condition yourself to hot weather exercising, be sure to do these three things:

Stay hydrated

Your body cools itself through sweating. Heat is pulled from the core up to the surface of the skin where the wind and air evaporates the sweat. Because sweat is composed of water, you are losing a lot of it when exercising in hot weather. To keep your body both hydrated and cooler inside, drink at least 16 to 24 ounces of water a couple of hours prior to exercising in the heat. Then drink another 8 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising.  Under normal workout times of an hour or less, good old H2O works the best. But once your workout time exceeds an hour, sports drinks will be the better choice to keep up your electrolyte and carbohydrate levels.

Watch the humidity level

While the body’s cooling process of sweating works well under normal humidity conditions, when the humidity gets high, sweat, and the heat it carries, doesn’t evaporate or evaporate as fast because the air is already saturated with water. Thus, body core temperature increases.

Listen to your body

Your body will tell you what degree of the four stages of distress it is in … just know the signs and react accordingly. The first thing you may notice if exercising in the heat are muscle cramps. At this point your body temperature may still be normal. It is usually caused by an electrolyte imbalance or being slightly dehydrated.

However, if you start to feel lightheaded or even faint – especially once finished exercising, you are at stage two called exercise-associated collapse. This should be your first wake-up call that you may be overdoing it and that your core temperature has risen to above normal.

Stage three can happen once your core temperature reaches 104 degree Fahrenheit. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness and cold clammy skin. If left untreated, it can turn to state four – heatstroke.

The last stage is life-threatening. Symptoms include all of those in stage three, but also include confusion, visual and heart rhythm problems. The skin will be hot and dry to the touch. If left untreated, death can occur.

Exercising in hot weather can be a performance enhancement, but only if done smart and over time so the body can acclimate to the new conditions.

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