running-in-winter

3 Motivating Reasons to Run Outside This Winter

1. Boost Your Immune System; Stay Healthy, Not Just Fit

According to many studies, exercising outside during the winter is a great way to reduce cold symptoms and respiratory infections.

One study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that exercising outside at least five days a week helps reducing your chances of contracting an upper respiratory tract infection, or making your cold less severe if you do catch one.

Another study from the Journal of Sport and Health Science shows that “maintaining leanness and a physically active lifestyle during adulthood reduces systemic inflammation, an underlying factor in multiple chronic diseases.”

So when you’re feeling like skipping your run due to an impending cold, think again. Prevent sniffles before they even start and maintain long-term health with consistent runs outside through the winter.

2. Prevent SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Ever feel depressed in winter months and use that as an excuse to stay inside? Do the opposite!

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) consists of recurrent major depressive episodes in the fall and winter seasons. And these episodes go into remission during spring and summer. One study in the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry states concludes that light therapy is an efficacious treatment for SAD, and exercise therapy is currently under systematic investigation as another helpful treatment for SAD.

So even if you just get the blues and not full-blown depression, exercise outside during light hours is a way to recharge your happiness and improve your mood, let alone your fitness.

Can’t make it outside during the light? Get a good headlamp. This will be your best $20-$100 winter investment, allowing your morning or nightly exercise routine to continue through the cold.

3. It’s Not as Cold as You Think—If You Prepare

Do you live in the Arctic Circle? Or Northern Minnesota? Chances are you don’t. So when you think it’s too chilly outside to go for your jog, think of the runners getting after it in places way colder than your hometown.

As professional track runner Lauren Fleshman states in a blog post about professional runners racing in tiny uniforms in the middle of winter: “It’s all about managing core temperature… We do very extensive warmups before the race, starting an hour before the race and wearing pants and jackets until the last possible minute.” So even though you may see professional runners race in spandex shorts in December, they do so because they are extremely warmed up. This is thanks to dressing properly from the start.

You, too, should dress appropriately for your activity. If it’s a relaxed run in 30-degree weather, wear spandex tights and two top layers, and a hat and gloves. If it’s 10 degrees colder, add another top layer. Then if you get warm, tie your top layer around your waist. This is way better than getting cold, or worse: not getting out at all!

Do you run outside during the winter? Share your running tips below.


About the Author

Clare Gallagher is an ultrarunner for The North Face and travels extensively for races and philanthropic work. She studied coral ecology at Princeton University where she also ran cross country and track. Clare has taught English in Thailand where she started a non-profit environmental stewardship program, she has scribed in emergency rooms across Denver, and she writes regularly for various running blogs.

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  1. […] buying a treadmill isn’t within your financial sphere, try running! You know: the old-fashioned running outside, which is always […]

  2. […] want to hit specific times without environmental conditions getting in the way. If you live in a cold climate, make sure you really pay attention to the winter wardrobe recommended in Step […]

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