For a lot of people, running is a seasonal thing. They love to hit the streets while the sun is shining in the summer months, but come autumn and the onset of winter, their enthusiasm wanes. We notice this a lot at our Milford physiotherapy clinic, as well as our other clinics across Auckland, as part-time runners hobble in complaining of injuries. A lot of this is down to the stop-start nature of their running – they don’t allow their bodies to get used to the stresses and strains that running imposes and are more likely to become injured.
Can you relate to all this? With autumn and winter approaching, and the end of Daylight Saving as well, you might be one of those part-timers who put the running shoes away until next summer. But we think you’re better off sticking with your running during autumn and winter, and this is backed up by research from leading scientists.
One of the biggest benefits from a weight loss perspective is that exposure to cold weather during exercise can alter the fat composition in your body. We have different types of fat within our bodies; white fat is the bad one as it is associated with diabetes and obesity. On the other hand, brown fat is considered to be a good fat as it burns energy to help maintain body temperature. A study discovered that white fat cells take on brown fat cell characteristics when our bodies are subjected to lower temperatures – in fact, within a month of exposure to cold, study participants in the study had a 42% increase in brown fat volume, 10% increase in metabolism and better insulin sensitivity! We’re not suggesting for a minute that you run through the snow and freeze your way to a healthy weight – but exercise in cooler conditions certainly has its advantages. Furthermore, cold exposure and fat conversion can increase your resting metabolic rate so you burn more calories while at rest.
From a mental health perspective, getting outside in winter is also advantageous. Many people tend to stick to an indoor exercise programme during the cooler months but while this is good for their physical health a lot of people report they don’t feel quite right mentally. This is not surprising. In autumn and winter, low levels of ambient light combined with shorter days reduces our exposure to vitamin D. This causes tiredness, fatigue disrupted sleep and low energy levels. Seasonal mood disturbances can also make it hard to find the motivation we all need to stick with an exercise regime. That’s why it’s important to not treat running as a seasonal thing but to see it as something you do year round, regardless of the weather.