The surprising benefits of a walk in wintry weather

Regular walks are one of the simplest ways to stay active and improve your health. Even short walks have been proven to increase your heart health, strengthen your bones and joints, promote weight loss, and reduce your overall risk of health problems.

But in the dark and cold winter months, you might not have much motivation to get outside as it’s tempting to stay indoors with the heating on and wrap up warm instead. However, now might be the perfect time to get your walking boots on as the cold could make it even better for you.

You burn more calories in the cold

Burning calories and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the biggest benefits of regular walking, and the cold weather can help a lot here.

When you are cold, your body has to generate heat to regulate your temperature, and it does this in several ways.

Firstly, it activates something called “brown adipose tissue”, more commonly known as “brown fat”. When your body temperature drops, this brown fat begins burning calories to generate heat and warm you up again.

When you regularly expose yourself to the cold, your body may create more brown fat, meaning this calorie burning effect could be pronounced.

Additionally, when you get exceptionally cold and start shivering, you often release a hormone called irisin, which is the same hormone that is released during exercise.

It’s important to note that the effect of the cold is not enough to burn significant amounts of calories on its own. However, when you combine it with the calories burned from walking, you could maximise the benefits of your daily stroll.

It could boost your immune system

A strong immune system can help you fight infections and stay healthy, especially during the winter when you might be more prone to illness.

There is some evidence to suggest that exposure to the cold could strengthen the immune system and improve your ability to fight infections.

Indeed, according to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, a group of subjects who regularly plunged into cold water experienced increased activation of their immune systems.

The cold weather outdoors also kills off bacteria and viruses so, although walking in the cold weather won’t make you impervious to illness, it could give your immune system a helping hand.

Cold weather can improve your sleep

Good quality sleep is crucial for our health. By improving your sleep, you can potentially reduce your risk of a whole host of physical and mental health issues. Unfortunately, many of us struggle to get into a good sleep routine.

Luckily, taking a walk outdoors in the winter could make it easier to drift off at night.

According to CBS, a study found that people had 30 minutes more REM sleep when the temperature is lower. This may be because, when your body temperature drops, you produce more melatonin – the sleep hormone.

Walking outside could also counteract some of the negative effects that the winter has on your sleep.

Typically, you are exposed to less sunlight during the winter, and this may affect your “body clock”, causing disturbances in your sleep. However, if you try to spend more time outdoors in the sunlight, you can potentially prevent this.

When you start sleeping better, you may notice that you have more energy, your mood is boosted, and your brain function improves too.

Your skin may benefit from the low temperature

If you are looking for ways to improve your skin, getting outdoors during the winter may be one of the best things you can do.

When the temperature drops, your body tries to retain heat by constricting the blood vessels in your skin. This essentially “trains” the blood vessels and makes them more responsive, which increases circulation.

The increased blood flow delivers more rejuvenating nutrients to the skin, helping it stay supple. The cold weather also closes up pores and stops the skin from becoming too oily.

The winter landscape keeps your walking routine fresh

Consistency is important when exercising, and it may be more beneficial to take a 10-minute walk every day than an hour-long walk occasionally.

Yet, it can get boring if you walk the same routes day in, day out and you may also find it harder to stay motivated in the cold weather.

However, winter walks can help you keep your routine fresh. Snow and frost transform natural landscapes and you can see different wildlife in the winter. By paying attention to these details, you can find new experiences in the same routes.

Ultimately, this could make it easier to be consistent with your walks and reap all the benefits that come along with that.

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Posted in Financial Planning, Financial Services.