Is your regular morning run worth the risk when the weather takes a turn for the worse? You’ve probably been cautioned several times against running in the cold weather. With stories of frozen lungs making the rounds every winter, running in the cold weather can seem like a bad idea. But fitness gurus, athletes, and even researchers suggest otherwise!
Out in the Cold: Benefits
Running in the cold weather is a whole lot more beneficial than it is made out to be. Before we dive into the advantages of running in the cold weather, here’s a little fact that will put your mind at ease: there’s no such thing as frozen lungs! According to Pulmonary Specialist Dr. Owen Hanley, as long as you are alive, you cannot possibly develop frozen lungs. Your body will not allow it! Luckily, our bodies are naturally designed to warm the inhaled air to body temperature by the time it reaches the lungs.
There are other precautions that you will have to take to protect yourself from the cold, but those will be discussed later. For now, take a look at what running in the cold weather can do for you!
Winter Weight Gain: Not Any More!
Blame it on the holiday season, sudden mood fluctuations, or the harsh weather, but the most important thing is to find a solution to the problem of winter weight gain! Lawrence J. Cheskin, founder and director of the John Hopkins Weight Management Center explains that on average, most people gain five to seven pounds in the winter season. Running is an excellent way to keep your expanding waistline in check, and maybe even lose a few additional pounds. Running in the cold weather requires will-power and dedication, but it is definitely worth the effort!
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Prevent It!
Winters tend to be dark, damp, prolonged and monotonous. These dreary conditions can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder in a small percentage of susceptible individuals. To put it simply, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of clinical depression. According to Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin, who is also an associate professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, it is triggered by the days becoming shorter in winter.
Running in the cold weather serves as the perfect shield to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. A study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology confirmed that people who exercised outdoors reported improvements in their moods, increased energy levels, decreased feelings of depression, and a higher probability of engaging in regular exercise!
A Little Bit of Cold Can’t Hurt, Can It?
Experts at Harvard Medical School are of the opinion that exposing your body to the cold isn’t as bad as you think. According to the Harvard Health Letter (January 2010), the human body contains two types of fat: brown fat and white fat. Babies have a higher percentage of brown fat because the heat-producing, calorie burning properties of brown fat help to regulate their body temperatures. As the years pass by, the proportion of brown fat in the body decreases. What is so great about brown fat? It can burn calories more efficiently than white fat!
Your daily goal in the winter season is to layer up and stay as warm as you possibly can, but exposing your body to the cold may help in weight control! The cold plays an instrumental role in activating brown fat, which in turn activates its heat-producing, calorie blasting properties.
A Few Necessary Precautions
While frozen lungs have been disqualified from the list of health complications, exercise-induced asthma is a very real concern. Dr. Ken Rundell, in his research carried out at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, confirmed that the dryness of cold air can cause chest tightening, narrowing of airways, shortness of breath, and dry cough.
The symptoms of exercise induced asthma can cause discomfort and even pain. Take a day off from running in the cold weather if you don’t feel up to it. You can also prevent exercise induced asthma by wearing a scarf and using it to cover your mouth. This will trap the natural water vapor from the air that you exhale, and warm and humidify the air that you inhale.
Running in the cold weather may seem like a questionable idea at first glance, but there’s more to it than meets the eye! Layer up, brace yourself for the chilly weather, and continue with your regular running schedule. It might take a little getting used to, but you’ll soon be hooked to the experience of running in the cold weather!