Are you put off by the cold temperatures, the bleak skies and the shorter days? Many people reduce their exercise and lose their motivation in the cold weather. Here’s some interesting information to inspire you to embrace the challenges of winter and reap the fitness benefits.

According to Jim Pate of The Centre for Health and Human Performance, your heart has to work harder in cold temperatures because it has to pump the blood around to maintain your body temperature. This benefits your cardiovascular fitness. Shivering, your body’s response to cold, can double your metabolic rate, using more carbohydrates and burning more fat. Some research has shown that exercising in the cold can increase the VO2 max, speed up muscle glycolysis (burning your carbs) and use stored calories.

If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), exercising outdoors will not only expose you to daylight and fresh air; it will increase the release of feel good endorphins, lifting your mood. Many studies have shown that just being outdoors can increase feelings of revitalisation and decrease feelings of tension, confusion, anger and depression.

One study in the US showed that people who exercised throughout the winter months suffered 50% fewer days of cold and flu, suggesting a clear link with your immune system.

Competitive athletes who maintain their training through the winter will benefit in the spring and summer as they will not have lost fitness.

So…get out there! Check the weather, wear layers with a dry wicking layer next to your skin, a mid layer for warmth and a water proof layer on the outside. Wear reflective clothing and ensure you run under street lights or use a good torch. Have good treads and, obviously, avoid icy roads and paths.