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6 benefits of working out in cold weather

Winter weather can make it tempting to skip your workout and spend the day bundled up.

However, studies suggest the cold can actually be a boon for exercise.

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Outdoor workouts in the cold can also help stave off the winter blues.

If you're looking for a little more motivation to keep moving, here are six benefits of cold-weather exercise.

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1. Burn more calories

Shivering > sweating

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Whenever you exercise, your body is working to keep your temperature stable, by sweating in the heat or shivering in the cold.

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Unlike sweating, shivering actually uses energy, burning extra calories in the process.

2. Exercise longer and harder

Going the distance

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When you work out in hot weather, your body has to work against the temperature increase that comes with exercise.

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In cold weather, your body doesn't need to fight to keep your temperature down, meaning you can go longer without tiring.

"When we do prolonged or cardiovascular exercise in a cold environment, we can better regulate our temperature and not overheat, improving performance — particularly for cardio."

— David Rogerson, sports nutritionist and strength conditioning expert at Sheffield Hallam University

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3. Activate good fat

Out with the bad

After 10 to 30 minutes in the cold, your body begins to turn "bad" white fat into "good" brown and beige fat.

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While white fat only stores energy, beige and brown fat can burn calories to keep you warm, boosting the benefits of your workout.

4. Long-lasting brown fat benefits

Feel the afterburn

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The positive effects of beige and brown fat last long after your workout, starting with increased calorie burn at rest directly afterward.

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Having more beige and brown fat can also reduce inflammation and protect against age-related obesity, insulin resistance, and heart disease.

5. Boost your mood

Good for your heart and mind

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Exercise is known to support mental health along with physical health, benefiting anxiety, depression, and negative mood.

Foregoing exercise when it gets cold out means you're missing out on those benefits and encourages other unhealthy habits like overeating.

6. Get outside

Soak up the winter sun

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Even exercising indoors in the winter has lots of benefits, but heading outside is even better for you.

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Outdoor exercise exposes you to the sun, which gives you the mood-lifting benefits of vitamin D.

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If you can get out into nature, research suggests you may get even more mental health benefits from your winter workout.

Despite all its benefits, there are some risks to exercising in cold weather

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Working out in the cold can increase the risk of injury, breathing issues, hypothermia, and cardiovascular trouble.

Experts warn to dress warmly (including hats, gloves, and face coverings if necessary) for a cold weather workout.

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It's more important to warm up properly and stay hydrated in the cold, and consult with a doctor beforehand if you have cardiovascular disease.

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Even if you can't manage a full workout, researcher Shingo Kajimura says just heading out for a few deep breaths in the cold is "better than nothing."

For more stories on health and wellness, click here.

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