When the pandemic initially triggered lockdowns and gym closures, spring had arrived. Opportunities to get outdoors and escape the inner confines of our homes seemed reasonable. But as COVID-19 rates continue to rise into the new year, the climate isn’t quite as agreeable. In some places, it’s down right frigid! You might think this would be enough to drive most of us back indoors for our winter workouts. But you’d be wrong. Many people are choosing to participate in cold weather exercise. And to their surprise, they are actually enjoying it.
The pandemic has altered the way we live life in many ways that will likely extend well into the future. Most expect that a significant portion of the population will continue to work from home. Likewise, on-demand entertainment, food delivery, and e-commerce shifts are believed to be permanent. With this in mind, some also expect cold weather exercise outdoors to be a new and lasting trend as well. To see if this might be the case, it’s worth exploring some of the advantages winter workouts offer.
The New Fad of Cold Weather Exercise
Let’s face it, most of us are tired of being cooped up inside our homes. As many cities in the North impose new lockdowns, we dread the social isolation this brings. New exercise apps are incredible and offer interactive ways to complete your workout. But they’re simply not the same as being in an exercise class with others. This is why winter workouts are gaining in popularity. Rooftops, parking lots, and city parks are new hotspots for a variety of cold weather exercise classes. And for many, they say the colder, the better.
Across the country, a number of gyms, studios, and fitness gurus are finding people are flocking to outdoor winter workouts. Some offer fitness bootcamps while others conduct Barre, Pilates, yoga, and spin sessions. Some groups even hold rowing fitness classes using stationary rowing machines on wharf platforms. Naturally, these classes promote physical fitness, but they also allow people to stay socially healthy as well. And the adrenaline rush that many experience with cold weather exercise invigorates and revitalizes. Many participants are truly amazed that this is an activity they actually look forward to every session.
More Than Your Typical Workout
Cold weather exercise has additional benefits beyond the normal physical activity you receive. For example, did you know winter workouts outdoors can help you burn more fat? If you’re working outside in colder temperatures, your metabolism tends to increase. That means you burn more calories per hour, boosting your workout even more. In addition, exercise in unusual conditions like ice, snow, and frigid temperatures adds variety to your routine. This helps you stay motivated, making it more likely you stick with to your exercise goals. Thus, despite the challenging environment, these perks tend to keep people coming back for more.
In addition to these advantages, winter workouts outdoors also have some mental health perks as well. If your cold weather exercise involves natural settings, your risk for depression is less. Research shows that exposure to nature and hiking outdoors can actually be used to reduce mood disorders like depression. Likewise, completing an exercise session in extreme temperatures and climates provides a boost in your self-esteem. In fact, many athletes use cold weather exercise to enhance their overall stamina and mental endurance. In this regard, these types of exercise routines offer truly holistic health benefits.
Preparing for a Winter Workout
While cold weather exercise offers a number of advantages, it does take some degree of preparation. In order to get the most out of a winter workout, pick one that you naturally enjoy. After all, persevering in an activity that you dislike in frigid temperatures may be impossible. Likewise, it’s important to do a little pre-training in preparation for the activity. This is particularly true if you’re trying a completely new activity. Similarly, dynamic warm-ups are a must and should be performed 10-15 minutes before your activity. This will reduce your chances of injury and make the overall experience that much more enjoyable.
It’s also important to adjust your expectations for your winter workouts given the change in conditions. Speed and endurance may not be a priority for these workouts. This is especially true if you’re exercising in icy or snowy terrains. Instead, proper form and strengthening may be better fitness targets. Likewise, you’ll also want to be sure you have the proper gear and clothing. Head, face, hands and toes need greater protection when exposed to cold temperatures. That means ensuring you have the right head wraps, gloves, and socks for cold weather exercise. Also, sweat-wicking fabrics underneath covered by an insulating layer and an outer shell may be needed.
Cold Weather Exercise Is Not for All
If winter workouts outdoors aren’t appealing to you, never fear! There are plenty of new apps and online platforms designed for a variety of activities. For example, Rouvy and Zwift offer virtual cycling routes to follow using a bike trainer. Some even offer live sessions where you can ride with others at the same time around the world. Yoga with Adrienne provides custom-made virtual yoga sessions for a variety of professions. And for the more technology-savvy individual, virtual reality fitness platforms now exist.
Not everyone may want to immerse themselves in cold weather exercise this season. However, it’s important to stay active and participate in regular exercise. Especially with the ongoing pandemic, exercise helps us deal with the stresses more effectively. It also boosts our immune system and strengthens our ability to fight infection. If winter workouts sound intriguing to you, then by all means, give them a try. You might just find they’re the answer to your lockdown-exercise dilemma. And you might just realize they’re something you’ll want to do even after it is all said and done.
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