Training outside in winter extra effective for weight loss

(Photo: Romy Louise van Schoonveld)

Although you may feel tempted to pick your indoor trainer instead of riding a mountain- or road-bike in cold weather, or if you prefer running on a treadmill instead of in the forest, there are plenty of reasons to go out and face the winter – one of which could be burning calories.

While many people gain an extra layer of fat in wintertime, either because they are training less or eating more, that extra weight usually disappears again in the summer. But, if you struggle with maintaining a healthy weight, you might benefit from training outdoors more than indoors. That’s because the cold helps burn more calories.

Burn 34 percent more calories when training in the cold

Research from the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming shows that people burn more calories in the cold due to thermogenesis, the process of heat production in your body. The research done with 53 men and women showed that, on average, people burned 34 percent more calories when training in a temperature between 14 and 23 degrees Celsius than when working out in warmer temperatures.

During the research, men burned 4,787 calories per day on average when hiking in the winter. This number was significantly lower in summer – 3,822 calories. For women, it was 3,880 calories a day in winter compared to 3,081 calories in summer.

The body burns more calories when it’s cold because our system has to work harder to keep us warm – thermogenesis makes us burn more calories at the end of the day. To benefit from thermogenesis, though, you actually need to feel a bit cold. That means that if wear many layers of clothing to protect yourself from the cold, you’ll interfere with the process, and it won’t have as much of an effect.