Cold Weather & Exercise by Stephen Coleman
It is nearing that time of year where the weather is beginning to change and become colder, wetter and windier.
This blog post will look at whether or not the cold has any affect on training or
exercise and if so what can you do about it.
The first thing to note is that the weather does have an impact on how the body responds to exercise. This applies to warm weather too, where you may have noticed it being significantly easier to break a sweat and sweat more with temperatures in the mid 20’s or higher.
This is due to the body wanting to lose heat and cool itself down through sweat.
With cold weather however, it is more desirable to retain heat.
The cold weather causes vasoconstriction, which is the tightening of blood vessels – a technique the body uses to retain heat. This however results in more blood staying centrally in the body
circulating around the organs and so less is available to the muscles and tissues in the arms and legs.
With less blood supplied to the body’s muscles, they are going to be less efficient at helping you perform during exercise. If similar training demands are placed on less efficient muscles that have slower reaction times, this may increase the risk of injury – although this also varies depending on sport / activity.
There are some studies that show that cold weather exercise results in an earlier onset of
exhaustion by up to 12 minutes. The wind-chill effect is also something to consider as wind can
affect the body’s perception of cold weather, making it feel colder.
There is much more to consider with cold weather training and in certain specific conditions it
actually has some benefits. However, for the most part there are a few key things that you can do
to help mitigate the cold and stay exercising.
Layering up is extremely important when exercising in the cold. Heat is lost through the surface of
the skin and especially at the extremities including the head, hands and feet. Wearing multiple
layers can help to trap air between them and heat it up, helping to insulate the body. Be mindful not
to wear too many layers such that the sweat gets trapped as this may actually work in cooling you
down instead. Wearing hats and gloves can also help reduce heat lost through the head and
A sufficient warm up cannot be underestimated for exercising in the cold. The cold results in increasing muscle tension, which is why we hunch over and tighten our arms around ourselves in a protective posture and shiver when it’s cold.
A proper, gradual warm up will help improve blood flow to the upper and lower limbs prior to exercise and reduce the possibility of shivering.
Cold air can also affect the lungs,
which may irritate those with asthma, make sure to have your
Make sure to remove any sweaty clothes soon after training and exercising in the cold,
dry off any excess sweat and change into dry clothes to help prevent rapid cooling.
By Stephen Coleman