When the winter chill sets in, lacing up your running shoes to leave the warm, cozy confines of home and get in a workout probably isn’t atop your to-do list. Especially if that workout is a run outside. Cold cheeks. Cold legs. OK, cold everything. And that whole runny nose part isn’t exactly a blast, either.
While we all know the benefits of incorporating regular exercise into our routines — like improvement in memory and thinking skills and decreased mortality rate — there are even more perks to logging miles when the winter chill sets in. That’s right: Cold-weather exercise can offer total-body benefits worth channeling your inner Frosty the Snowman.
“Get the right gear and prepare to toughen up,” says Jess Movold, coach at treadmill studio Mile High Run Club in New York City. “Gloves and hats especially, and then get out there. You may just be surprised at how a chilly run can make you both mentally and physically stronger, you’ve just got to commit.”
Here are four reasons to embrace cold weather miles (and per Movold’s point, make sure to layer up in breathable materials before hitting the pavement):
YOU’LL GET VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is necessary to help maintain strong bones and regulate your body’s phosphate and calcium levels. While it is possible to get the 1,000–2,000 IUs of recommended daily vitamin D through your diet, in things like fish and dairy products (milk, yogurt, eggs), it’s a whole lot easier to just get outside. Typically, the vitamin D in our bodies — roughly 90% — is manufactured as a response to sun exposure. It’s no surprise that, come winter, it’s easy to quickly become vitamin D deficient. Getting outside for a run can help you get what you need in just an hour’s time.
YOU’LL KEEP YOUR TRAINING ON POINT
Treadmills are a great option for getting it in when it’s brisk out there. Even better, you always know exactly what you’re doing (speed, incline) and the screen in front of you is easy to adjust. But ultimately, there is no replacement for outdoor running. “There’s just no substitute for real inclines,” says Movold. “Speed work on the treadmill is definitely useful, but they should supplement outdoor running, not replace it. There’s something special about your stride on asphalt.”
YOU CAN AMP UP SPEED GAINS
The sooner you get out there, the sooner you’re done, and the sooner you’re back inside. One would think since you likely don’t want to be out in the cold longer than you have to be, you’re probably going to move a tad quicker (Bonus: If you run faster, you burn more calories). Well, science agrees. Army researchers found race times are actually faster in cold weather.
SHIFT YOUR PERSPECTIVE
After a summer of tackling miles in less-than-ideal humidity, the cooler setting is a great reminder of all extremes. “Frigid runs makes us appreciate the luxury of temperatures in the 60s and 70s when we successfully get out there for a run in the 30s,” says Movold. “Plus, the air quality is much clearer, without the same levels of smog or humidity, in the winter months. That means it’ll be easier to breathe and settle into the run.”