Why You Might Want To Start Exercising In The Cold

Instead of snuggling deeper under the covers on a cold morning, consider putting on your running shoes instead. If you're trying to lose weight, your metabolism might thank you, according to new research about the effects of high-intensity interval exercise in colder temperatures (via Science Alert).

Researchers from Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada, studied the effects of "lipid oxidation," or burning fat, among 11 "recreationally active" adult volunteers as they participated in a series of workouts (via the Journal of Applied Physiology). The volunteers performed 10 one-minute "cycling sprints" followed by 90-second recovery periods (pedaling at a slower pace) in a cold environment of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) and in a warmer environment of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius).

Their study, published in December, noted the participants' lipid oxidation was 358 percent higher during exercise in the cold environment. However, the long-term effects of such exercise in the cold are unknown, the researchers said.

Cold weather exercise boosts fat burning, but researchers aren't sure how long the effect lasts

High-intensity interval exercise, also known as high-intensity interval training or HIIT, involves "going all-out" for a brief period, then allowing yourself a period to recover, according to Self. In terms of running, instead of keeping a steady pace over a half-mile or so, you'd sprint for 20 seconds, then rest for 40 seconds to one minute, then repeat that sprinting-resting cycle.

For the Canadian study, researchers measured their core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, and the amount of oxygen that made its way to the quadriceps between the evening bouts of exercise in two different temperatures. The researchers then checked the volunteers' blood samples the following mornings after a high-fat breakfast to assess any change in their blood sugar levels.

Although exercising in the cold weather boosted lipid oxidation "immediately afterwards," the researchers found no "substantial difference" following breakfast the next morning, Science Alert says. What's more, the volunteers' blood sugar levels were better after exercising in the warmer of the two environments.

Regardless, this study "is an interesting starting point for looking at how ambient temperature might affect fat burning during bursts of intensive exercise," Science Alert notes. One study early in 2020 found a link between men's metabolism and exercising in colder temperatures (4.6 degrees Celsius, or about 40 degrees Fahrenheit). Other studies have noted that short intervals of intense exercise are effective at burning fat.