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5 Myths About Exercising in Cold Weather

running stick figureMyth #1 – Exercising in cold weather is bad for you.

FALSE. Just because the weather is cold outside doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad for you to go for a run. Just be sure to warm up properly – either by doing some dynamic stretching or by easing into your run at a slow pace before building up to faster paces.

Myth #2 – Running in cold weather is bad for your lungs.

FALSE. Research shows that runners are not in danger of freezing their lungs, even in the coldest places on Earth such as the North and South Poles. Thanks to our body’s ability to adapt to different weather situations, air reaches body temperature by the time it greets our lungs. [via]

Myth #3 – Running in cold weather burns more calories.

TRUE.  There is a lot of speculation as to whether exercising in cold temps burns more calories. Some experts argue not while others argue yes. According to Glen Haney, MA, certified personal trainer and exercise physiologist, “It is true that you burn slightly more calories in colder weather. That’s because your metabolic rate increases to warm your body, and that bit of extra work means more burn.” [via]

However, it should be noted that the amount of calories you burn is really due to exertion – not the temps outside.

Myth #4 – Your body needs extra sleep during the winter months.

FALSE. During the winter, you may feel more tired, sluggish, or feel like you need more sleep. This is due to the fact that during the winter, the days are shorter, and the amount of light is limited. Believe it or not, this lack of light affects our body’s sleeping cycles because it causes an increase in the production of melatonin.

Melatonin is the chemical responsible for our body’s sleep/wake cycles. The more your body produces, the more tired you may feel. The best thing you can do is maintain your normal sleep/wake routine. You may feel a little more tired in the a.m., but as soon as you get moving, you’ll be fine.

Myth #5 – You don’t need to hydrate as much during the winter.

FALSE. According to cold weather studies conducted at the University of New Hampshire, you may be at an increased risk for dehydration during the winter than during the summer. We lose respiratory fluid when we breathe, and we also lose fluids when we sweat (sweat evaporates faster in cold, dry air).

Interestingly, despite this fluid loss, the sense of thirst that would normally be triggered during warm weather is not triggered the same way (if at all) when in cold weather. According to Robert Kenefick, UNH associate professor of kinesiology, this is because cold weather actually alters our thirst sensation.

The key to staying safe is to make sure you are properly hydrating – especially in cold weather. Hydration can take the form of: hot tea, vegetables, and fruit, to just plain old water. 

What other exercise myths have you heard? Share them in the comments section!

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