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Does Warm VS Cold Weather Make A Difference

Mar 28, 2023

Does Warm VS Cold Weather Make A Difference

Remember back to the Rocky movies of the 70’s with Sylvester Stallone trading his running on Philadelphia streets for boxing meat carcasses in a refrigerated slaughterhouse? Then in a sequel, Rocky is training in a secluded setting and running in deep snow. We all thought the cold must have made him tougher and helped his overall conditioning.

Flash forward a few decades and the hot yoga craze came along. The idea was to sweat our butts off in 104-degree rooms while trying to balance on one leg. Yep, tried that a few times.

Does training in cold weather or warm weather give us an advantage? Unfortunately, perhaps not as much as we would like to think. There are definitely some minor changes and advantages that both cold weather and warm environs can offer.

Let’s consider some different temperature settings for exercise, and debunk some myths:

  • Extreme heat gives us a better workout – Not accurate. Our heart rate may run higher in warmer temperatures, but if the workout intensity is the same, our oxygen consumption — and therefore our calorie burn — will remain the same. Simply put, only way to boost our burn, no matter what temperature, is to increase intensity.
  • Sweating outside on a cold day can make us sick – Not accurate. Exercise generates a considerable amount of heat and can cause us to sweat even when it’s cold outside. As the sweat dries, we might feel chilled, but it does not mean we are sick. Temperature does not make us sick — viruses make us sick — and the cold virus spreads when people are in close contact indoors for months on end (during the winter), regardless of what the thermostat says or how much we sweat and where.
  • Does exercising in heat improve overall performance – This is true. But only if we get used to it. Over time, as we acclimate to a higher temperature, our blood plasma volume increases. This means that in hot weather, we have more blood going to our heart to carry oxygen and more blood going to our skin to cool us. But this does not mean that we can take hot yoga twice a week and be acclimated to 100-degree temps. It takes about seven to 10 days of continual exposure for acclimatization to take hold.
  • We burn more calories exercising in cold weather – This is accurate. Research has shown that repeated exposure to cold temperatures can actually change the structure of mito-chondria (energy producing cells) and can help convert inert white fat cells to calorie-burning beige fat cells. Therefore, fat tissues can become more metabolically active under cold conditions. Furthermore, exercising in cooler temps can result in a calorie-burning boost as our body reacts to the cold by burning fat as fuel to stay warm.

Yes, exercising in warm or cold weather can make a difference. Both extremes can have some benefits, it really depends on what we are targeting. Cold weather exercise will not make us sick but it might help us burn more calories. Warm weather exercise can help us with overall performance, but it won’t happen overnight. Perhaps it is best to exercise year-round and under all the conditions Mother Nature can throw at us. Be Blessed.

Category: Dr. Sterling