Don’t hibernate: The surprising benefits of staying active in the winter

December 09, 2022 | by Jen Alberto, B.S.
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

Do you go into hibernation mode when it is cold and snowy outside? Many of us find it difficult to stay motivated to exercise in the winter.

Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you need to stay indoors or stop moving. Exercising in the winter has some surprising benefits:

  • Increases endurance – In cold temperatures, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you sweat less, and expend less energy.
  • Burns more fat – Exercising in cold weather can double the amount of fat you burn. According to researchers, when a peptide found in our muscles (called sarcolipin) is activated during exercise in cold temperatures, it helps your body burn more fat. 
  • Keeps you from getting SAD – Regular exercise can protect against seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People can manage or avoid SAD with 30 to 60 minutes of exercise and 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight each day.
Here are some ideas so you can stay active in the winter and keep your heart healthy:
  • Go for a walk at a mall.
  • Bowl with friends or family.
  • Roller skate.
  • Sign up for a group class like yoga or Zumba.
  • Take the stairs as much as you can. 
  • Attend family events or activities happening in the community.
  • Sled, ice skate or snowshoe.
  • Go for a swim at an indoor pool.
  • Volunteer at a local non-profit organization.
  • Start a home workout regimen.

If you’re going outside, plan accordingly. Dress in layers that you can remove if you get too warm. Always cover your hands, head and ears to protect them from frostbite. Wear warm shoes.

If you have heart disease, you need to be especially careful exercising outdoors in the cold. The cold weather can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, and force your heart to work harder. Learn the risks of shoveling.

If you’ve recently had a heart attack and you’re concerned about how much activity is safe for you, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can recommend ways to get moving indoors and outdoors.

Edward-Elmhurst Health is a national leader in heart care. We treat more than 40,000 heart and vascular patients annually. Learn more about our heart and vascular services.

Related blog:

Heart-healthy exercises you can do all year long

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