Hot vs. Cold: Which Burns More Calories?

Whether you’re someone who enjoys working out on the elliptical, going for a swim or lifting weights, there are nearly endless options when it comes to getting a good sweat on. And with the addition of the summer heat, it’s easy to break a sweat before you even start your workout.

So amidst these high temperatures, you’re likely wondering, is there actually an advantage to enduring the grueling weather? Or should you opt for the air-conditioned gym instead? Well, as it turns it out, there is an advantage to exercising outdoors, whether it’s hot or cold. Depending on what your goals are, one may be better than the other.

What are the benefits of working out in the heat?

The bottom line is working out in the heat is likely to burn more calories. This is because your body has to work harder to cool itself than it does to heat itself. In an effort to cool down, your body produces sweat, which is the result of your heart pumping blood to your skin. Therefore, the hotter you get, the harder your heart has to pump.

Additionally, studies have found that training and exercising in the heat can help prepare and condition you for the cold. So exercising outdoors now, in the midst of the summer heat, may actually help prepare you for the winter months.

What are the benefits of working out in the cold?

On the other hand, exercising in the cold has been shown to burn more fat. This is because in the cold, your body has an easier time regulating its temperature, so you are able to exercise farther and/or longer.

Need another reason to conquer the cold? Studies have found that exercising in cold weather encourages your body to transform white fat into brown fat. While a different type of fat may not necessarily sound like a good thing, it is. Brown fat supports burning calories for energy and heat, rather than storing it as fat tissue.

Before you try to beat the heat…

While the promise of burning extra calories may make you want to lace up your athletic shoes and head out for an afternoon in the sun, it’s important to understand the dangers of exercising in the heat. Things like heat exhaustion, dehydration, even heat stroke are all too frequent.

Here’s what you need to know to stay safe:

 1.  Don't exercise outdoors during the hottest hours of the day, generally between noon and 3 p.m.

 2.  Drink extra water before, during and after exercise. Bring a water bottle to use while you exercise.

 3.  Make sure clothing fits loosely, is light in color, is lightweight and wicks away moisture. Protect against sunburn with sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.

 4.  Give your body time to adjust to higher temperatures, and don't push yourself as hard as usual when the weather first heats up. Take breaks when needed, and listen to your body.

 5.  Consult your doctor about the safety of exercising in hot weather.

 6.  Work out with an exercise buddy for safety.

 7.  Utilize the expertise of a licensed professional. With personal fitness training, you’ll be able to receive one-on-one attention, a customized exercise regimen and access to an extensive range of fitness and performance enhancement services.  

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