THERE’S NOTHING LIKE greeting a frosty dawn when you need motivation to get moving. And whether you keep fit through winter on the saddle of your bike as you freewheel down a hillside, by jogging past icy lakes as the sun sets or simply on your morning walk to work, you’ll not only be enjoying the season in all its beauty but also unique wellbeing benefits to boot.
First and foremost, studies show that exercising in the cold leads to better aerobic fitness. Your lungs, circulatory system and heart have to work harder, which has the satisfying effect of increasing your endurance, so if you stay active outdoors through winter, you’ll be on top form come spring. What’s more, you’ll naturally feel warmer, even when not exercising, as your body gets used to generating warmth from within rather than relying on external sources such as a radiator or a hot water bottle, which only heat the top few layers of your body.
Your heart in particular gets a boost from chilly weather, as it has to shift a larger volume of blood around your body to keep your muscles working. Exercising regularly leads to a lower resting heart rate and lower blood pressure – and one of the best ways to do this is on your bike. A few minutes cycling is all you need, as a study of 37 55-year-olds found. Pedalling for just 5-10 minutes on a daily basis was enough to lower their risk of developing high blood pressure.
What’s more, you’ll have an overall sense of lightness and more energy in the colder months, because humidity levels are much lower at this time of year. Many fitness fans swear that cold weather makes them speedier and lighter on their feet – hence why most big running events are held in early spring, after all the benefits of winter training.