Why you need to embrace cold weather exercise

A little chill in the air is no excuse to halt your exercise routine. Here’s how to keep up your mojo as you brave the cooler elements.

As the summer glow starts to fade and we settle into cooler temperatures, activities don’t have to stop.

In fact, experts advocate diversity in exercise and adjusting your body’s output with the seasons to ensure it’s in balance, while also being challenged.

Why cold weather exercise is good for you

Performance coach and Aston RX owner Donna Aston says we’re actually more inclined to shed weight in the cooler months.

“Our bodies rely on thermogenesis to produce heat and, as the body has to work harder to produce heat and bring it back to a normal temperature in the cooler months, it’s normal to burn more calories in autumn and winter,” Donna says.

“So exercising outside isn’t out of the question as long as you’re prepared for it with layers of clothing.

“In fact, people are more inclined to push themselves when it’s colder to warm up, with exercises such as running being much more difficult in the heat of summer.”

Set goals to keep fitness on track in cold weather

And on the days your warm bed beckons or comfort food calls, setting new physical goals keeps up motivation, and a commitment to exercise also helps prevent diet sabotage.

When you’re working hard physically, Donna says you’re less likely to throw it all away by eating the wrong things, thereby hindering your recovery and sleep quality.

“It’s much easier to get somewhere if you know where you’re going,” she says.

“Physical goals are great for that sense of progression.

“If you want to be able to run 5km non-stop, start by walking for one minute and jogging for 30 seconds, gradually increasing the jogging time.

“Then you have a purpose and reach milestones along the way.

“I often suggest people listen to podcasts or audiobooks when they walk or run because you tend to walk for longer so you get to hear the whole thing.

“If you’re entertaining your mind at the same time as exercising, it’s amazing how fast time goes.”

Take exercise indoors when its cooler

Cancer Council Victoria’s LiveLighter campaign manager Emma Glassenbury says it’s important to remember exercise is not only about losing weight but has benefits for mental health, muscle strength, sleep, heart health and preventing some cancers and type 2 diabetes.

“If people are struggling with motivation to get outdoors when it’s cooler, they should remember there are plenty of online programs to do now, and activities such as housework and gardening are also great exercise,” Emma says.

“In autumn and winter, it’s about being more creative and we don’t want to form peaks and troughs with our exercise.

“It’s important to maintain movement all year round, remembering that anything is better than nothing and more is better.”

Public health guidelines recommend Australians do at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week or at least 75 minutes of intense exercise a week, plus strength training for bone density.

Create opportunities to exercise

Emma believes modern screen-based lifestyles impede activity, making it all the more important for people to be creative in their exercise options, especially in colder weather.

“Even using public transport will add 15 minutes of physical activity to your day, so it’s important to think of all the ways we can make movement an opportunity,” she says.

“Think consciously about taking the stairs or have walking meetings or catch-ups.”

Visit livelighter.com.au for activity ideas and use the activity calculator to assess whether you’re getting enough exercise.

For more health and wellness advice, pick up your free copy of Wellness+ from your local Chemist Warehouse.

Written by Catherine Lambert.