As we approach mid-winter, cabin fever starts to set in, waistlines expand, and workout routines and resolutions are soon forgotten. We spend our days in overheated offices and stuffy, crowded subways and our nights settled into our couches for Netflix binge sessions. Enjoyable outdoor winter exercise is almost impossible to find in icy, slushy, wind-blown New York. Hibernation is the only reasonable option, right? Wrong!
Winter Hiking & Snowshoeing!
Exercising in winter is twice as efficient at burning calories than in the summer, increases cardiovascular endurance, and even improves mood and energy while boosting immunity. Outdoor pros and experienced adventurers often prefer winter for the sublime beauty of snow covered landscapes, but if you need an additional reason (or 7) to get out into the snow this winter, consider all these amazing benefits of cold weather exercise.
Burn wayyyy more calories. Your body raises your metabolic rate significantly (up to 40%) just from being out in the cold weather. Through personal experience, I know that a 185 lb male (guess who I’m referring to?) carrying a pack will burn almost 5000 calories/day. Butter in your coffee anyone? Bonus: Your metabolism stays up after the hike—for another 48-72 hours your metabolism will be 15-25% higher. In other words, the pounds will more or less melt off.
Raise your resting metabolic rate and burn more calories at rest! Exercising in cold temps causes your body to produce the (amazingly named) hormone Irisin. All this magical hormone does is convert bad, adipose “white” fat into beneficial, healthy, brown fat. Adipose “white” fat, stores calories and is associated with all types of health problems, such as diabetes (also responsible for potbellies and love handles). Brown fat burns calories. All the time. In addition to raising your resting metabolism, brown fat helps regulate body temps, making you more comfortable.
Get more “bang for your buck” in cardio training. Your body will adapt to performing in the additional challenge of cold temps, such as constricted capillaries, and improve cardiovascular performance and capacity at a much greater rate than the same training in warm weather. Plus, travel on snow and ice engages plenty of lateral muscles and tendons, greatly strengthening joints, which is awesome for preventing injuries.
Make some D and Fight SAD. In the outdoors, your body will make a little bit of Vitamin D, especially on a sunny, mild day. But most importantly, the boost of endorphins and serotonin in your system will last for over a week, helping you battle the “Winter Blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder—and maybe kickstart a stalled fitness regimen!
You’ll own the winter in NYC! Just a day or two of exercise in cold temps will go a long way to helping your body acclimate to the winter. Anyone who has seen our guides hiking in t-shirts on sunny days in late February and early March knows what we mean!
Boost your immune system. You know how badly your body wants out of the choked, heated air for a day. And it will almost certainly boost your immune system; I know I haven’t gotten so much as the sniffles in any winter in which I spent time regularly outdoors.
It’s really, really, really pretty out there!!!