Running in the cold can have a ‘positive impact’ on your health

James Davies shares his quick exercise tip

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Founder and CEO of Another Round, Max Cotton told “Running in the cold probably isn’t going to make you any fitter or healthier than running in the warmth.”

But added: “Winter runs can have a positive impact for you in other ways.” He continued: “It’s a great way to boost your Vitamin D intake in winter, and it’s great exercise- if you only run in the warm months in the UK that might be less than half of your year.

“You’re also less likely to overheat so long as you don’t over-layer, meaning you might run further for longer and at a lower heart rate than on a hotter day.”

As well as physical benefits, there are also psychological benefits to getting out there on a crisp dry day.

Cotton said there are “mental benefits” to doing anything in the discomfort of the cold; it makes you a little tougher, a little more resilient every run.

“For example, I used to go for runs at 5am or earlier in a vest and shorts in zero degrees to prep for ultra runs – forcing myself to run slowly and warm up naturally, even though the impulse is to go as fast as possible, because it’s so cold!”

However, while going out in zero degrees in summer clothing may not be for all of us, it does raise important points about how cold weather can improve mental health.

The Wim Hof Breathing Method is a form of therapy that involves harnessing the benefits of cold water.

On the website it says: “Frequent exposure to cold is linked to a number of different health benefits. For example, scientists have found evidence that exposure to cold speeds up metabolism. Another benefit of exposing your body to cold is that it reduces inflammation, swelling, and sore muscles.

“Therefore, many athletes use ice baths and other types of exposure to cold as a means to speed up recovery after physical exercise. Furthermore, cold body therapy is also linked to improved quality of sleep, more focus, and even an improved immune response.”

Wim Hof is not the only person to champion the benefits of cold water. So too does Dr Donald Grant of the Independent Pharmacy.

He said: “Chilly temperatures are proven to reduce your body’s rate of perspiration.
“Recent research from sports scientists at St. Mary’s University in London confirmed that over the course of a 40-minute run, you’ll lose almost 40 percent less fluid through sweating than if you were to run in the heat of summer. “In other words, you’ll have to carry (and consume) far less water.

“The winter weather drastically reduces your body’s fluid intake needs. Feeling less thirsty will leave you better able to focus on getting the most out of your run.

“Eliminating any psychological or physiological distractions and concentrating on your pace is a surefire way to improve the quality of your session, and the cold winter weather provides the perfect conditions for record-beating times.”

However, he warned people to “remember to top up your fluids when needed”, and along with Mr Cotton, talked about the physical benefits too.

Dr Grant said: “As we head into winter, many of us may start to suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder). This can result in a low mood, difficulty concentrating, and even a lack of motivation.

“SAD is caused, in part, by a lack of vitamin D which we’d usually receive from the sun. The best way to combat this is by getting out and about during the few hours of daylight we receive — especially if you’re working from home or in an office.

“Head out for a chilly winter run in the morning, or during your lunch break. Even ignoring the benefits of extra vitamin D, exercise releases powerful, depression-fighting hormones, so brace for the cold and get out there!”

As a result, though the initial burst of cold may chill, the end benefits of getting outside this winter could be more than just heart-warming.

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