As we enjoy the fall, most of us are starting to feel that slight nervousness that comes as we anticipate the cold-weather season. We’re switching up our exercise routines from being outdoors to embracing the workouts that are more appealing to being done inside. Today, we’re setting the record straight when it comes to fitness and cold-weather myths.
1. Running in the cold affects your immune system. Yes, this is true. Running and exercising in cold weather is a double stressor for the body causing an greater increase in nor-epinephrine and cortisol than a thermo-neutral environment. This translates into immune-depression and decreased ability to fight infection. Decrease the intensity and duration in cold weather, that will help keep immunity high.
2. Cold weather helps you lose weight. Sure, if you are shivering all day as shivering burns and exorbitant amount of calories. But in reality, cold weather does not aid in weight loss.
3. Cold weather makes you depressed. This is not exactly true. Winter depression, aka “seasonal affective disorder,” (SAD) is not related to the cold but to light. It gets darker out earlier and in those countries that have dark days will get affected the most. But staying inside and not accomplishing the things you want can cause depression. In essence, the cold weather does not produce depression. Dress warm and take care of your business no matter what. This builds self-esteem!
4. You need to sleep more in the winter. NO this is not true. The pineal gland is responsible for the sleep cycle and based on light not temperature – in actuality the cold can keep you up longer. As daylight fades, the pineal gland produces more melatonin, which causes us to feel sleepy. In the morning, the gland is instructed to stop producing the hormone, which aids in waking up. We feel sleepier in the winter because there’s less daylight, hence more melatonin.
5. You shouldn’t exercise in the cold. This really depends on how cold but for the most part this myth is False. Almost everyone can exercise safely during cold weather unless suffering from asthma, c-v disease, or Raynaud’s phenomenon. If the temperature dips below 0 F (minus 17.8 C) or the wind chill is extreme, consider taking a break or choosing an indoor exercise instead. If not, dress in layers, and decrease the duration of the workout.
6. Winter muchies. Cold weather makes you eat more. True. Caloric intake tends to increase as the weather turns colder. Increased melatonin may be known to be a cause an increase in appetite. Furthermore, you tend to stay indoors more and that can also lead to greater food intake. Some believe genetics/anthropology is the prime reason we eat more. We are genetically programmed to conserve calories in the winter which in turn will give us energy for the seasons we need it more.
7. Injury recovery takes longer in winter. Total Myth. Unless you are living in the wild, the winter time should have no effect on your healing. I have helped professionals and Olympians equally heal in the summer and winter. What’s more important is seeing the macro view of your life and planning accordingly.
8. Drinking alcohol keeps you warm in cold weather. True. Alcohol increases body temperature acutely and a quick shot will def warm the body (as many people do skiing – Hot Toddy!) but in essence your periphery becomes temporarily warmer but at expense of your core! So alcohol during exercise is a horrid idea as it will decrease your performance substantially.
9. It’s ok to drink less water in the winter. If your winter is a cold climate it is always good to go out of the way to hydrate for three reasons. One, in the dry, cold climate we need extra water to keep our mucous membranes moist as this helps ward off infection. Second, in the winter you may not feel, hot, parched and want to drink water because you feel cold. Rest assured, even though you are not in a hot sweaty climate does not mean you need LESS water. Some say you need more! Finally, greater core and peripheral water level aids in the moisture of the skin and total blood volume. This also helps prevent chapping, cracking, opportunistic infection, and c-v function.