If you’re one of those people who sticks to exercising outside despite the plummeting temperatures, you may not realise how important it is to keep warm.
Working out in the cold sees your body activate your brown fat, whose job is to keep you warm. This then changes your unhealthy white fat, usually found around the hips, belly and bottom, into beige fat, which burns calories and triggers heat.
“For most exercise situations, cold is safer and more accommodating than the summer’s heat,” Bill Brewer, the director of exercise science at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, told shape.com. “And it lets people work harder and longer.”
There’s a healthy way to go about this though. Start by checking the temperature outside before heading out, as well as the change of rain and wind speed. Even if it isn’t that chilly, add a shower and heavy gusts to the equation and it could result in frostbite, so you’ll need to know how much you need to cover up.
Layering is key when it comes to exercising in the great outdoors – it’s no good sticking on a thick jumper then realising five minutes into your workout that you’re too warm. Several thin layers will allow you to get the best out of your fitness regime, with Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., the chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise, explaining the benefits.
“You’ll trap and warm the air between each layer for an insulating effect,” he said, meaning your outer layer will repel the wind, while the inner layers keep you warm. The best types of material are wool and polyester, which don’t absorb sweat.
“Your body loses heat four times faster when exposed to water,” Cedric noted, adding this can cause hypothermia.
A hat, scarf and gloves can also make a difference as any body part exposed to the cold will see your body temperature drop.
What you eat before heading out also plays a part – tucking into something like cayenne pepper around an hour before your workout will keep you feeling warm. Sprinkle it on your egg on toast, or add some to your avocado.
“The capsaicin in the chilli peppers increases your internal temperature slightly, which will raise the rate at which you burn calories and warm your body slightly,” Charles Pelitera, an assistant professor of kinesiology and the coordinator of health and wellness at Canisius College in Buffalo, revealed.
Lastly, rather than pulling a bottle of water out of the fridge for your run, fill a bottle or flask with hot water. When it’s still warm, gently rest it against your head while out to help maintain your body temperature. Nothing will give you a chill more than gulping freezing water too.
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