Now that the cold weather is upon us, it’s time to bust out those…running shoes? Don’t be fooled. Winter is still cardio season. I know it’s more tempting than ever to park it on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and a cup o’ cocoa but making sure we upkeep our cardio during the chilly weather is still important.
But is it too cold to exercise? There are a few popular myths surrounding exercising in the cold. Low temps are damaging to the lungs, frostbite, bad circulation, and decreased muscle function, to name a few. Safe to say that some of these fare better as excuses than fact.
Myth: Exercising in the cold air makes it harder to breathe.
Truth: Lungs are not agitated by cold. No matter how cold the temperature drops, by the time air reaches our lungs, it’s body temperature. Otherwise we’d have some frosty insides. So why do some people have problems? According to Dr. Kenneth W. Rundell, director of respiratory research and the human physiology laboratory at Marywood University, “That sort of irritation of the respiratory tract is caused by dryness, not cold.”
Solution: If your lungs are sensitive to the cold, see a respiratory specialist. Additionally, you can wear a balaclava. This will trap your exhaled breath to re-moisten the air you breathe.
Myth: Exercising in the cold air will decrease my circulation.
Truth: As long as we are dressed for the temperature, no weather is too cold to combat. Explorers trek to the Arctic poles and return from that subzero wasteland, so a 35 degree jog or bike ride will not hinder your blood flow as long as you are dressed for the part. Remember, water saps heat from our bodies 70 times more effectively than air, so if it’s wet and cold, really make sure to wear the right gear or just wait for a clearer day.
Solution: Wear the right clothes for inclement weather. Don’t bundle up too much, as sweat is also a form of moisture. So that means avoid cotton as it will lose its insulating properties when we sweat. You should feel cool before starting your cardio exercise. And don’t forget your ears, fingers, and toes!
Myth: Bodies have to adapt to the cold, just like the heat.
Truth: While it is true that continual exercise in the heat will acclimatize our bodies to the temperature, biologically speaking, it doesn’t work that way for the cold. The body’s cold response like shivering, blood vessel constriction near skin, and pulling blood to the core, don’t improve if you spend more time in the cold.
Solution: If you hate the cold that much, gyms have treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical, and indoor heated pools that will provide you with that comfortable, climate controlled, cardiovascular workout.
Now more than ever is important for us to get out and move. Spending at least 30 minutes a day exercising will help with a range of pesky winter-time problems. Winter blues? Exercise increases mood, especially exercising outside. Can’t sleep? Exercising helps strengthen our circadian rhythms. Holiday weight? Don’t feel guilty for grabbing the extra slice of pie, cardio’s got your back to help balance out our gluttonous holiday eating habits. Don’t let the winter send you into hibernation!
By: Libby Young