Is it Safe to Run in the Cold: Benefits & Alternatives

Winter might be the best time to snuggle up and start binge-watching on Netflix. Research from the Journal of Sport and Health Science [1] advocated that a lot of people use the cold winter weather as an excuse to skip their exercise routine. Most people worry about their safety exercising in the cold especially those who engage in workouts like running. But really, is it safe to run in the cold?

Is it Safe to Run in the Cold

According to Mayoclinic[2], just about everyone can exercise in the cold without worrying about their health.

I, myself, know from experience that running in the cold weather is safe unless it is inclement weather. Scholars even said that no temperature[3] is too low to exercise in as far as you are properly dressed for the exercise.

So the short answer is, Yes! It is totally safe to run in the cold weather, why to recline on your couch when you could be working out and gaining superfluous benefits; running can really change your body. Now, this brings me to my next subtopic.

What are the benefits of running in the cold?

Running in the cold might seem risky but you should know that it comes with its own benefits: Burn extra calories, increase your aerobic activity, mood and energy, strengthen your heart and muscles, but let’s explain in detail.

You will burn more fat by running in the cold

There are different types of fat in the body. The two main groups are white fat[4] and brown fat[5].

White fat is what most people know as unwanted fat while brown fat is the metabolic tissue that torches calories.

Studies suggest that exercising[6] and exposing[7] our body to cold temperature will convert all our unwanted white fat to brown. What this means is that running in the cold weather will help burn a lot of calories and even change the body composition.

The center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [8] recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity or 75 minutes of high-intense exercise. Brisk running outside could help you meet these recommendations.

You will prevent winter weight gain

Generally, we all tend to move less and eat more in the colder seasons, scientists call this a form of hibernation.

Since running burns a considerable amount of calories, it is, therefore, a force to reckon with if you don’t want to look bigger than you were before the cold seasons. Getting to the gym might be a problem during these seasons, which is why running indoor or outdoor might be the best alternative.

You triumph over Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) [9] is a type of depression that is linked with a change in seasonal weather conditions. During the winter, the days are shorter and the weather nose-dives, this can lead to SAD. 

Running is ideal to help you elevate your mood during the cold weather months. Doing so could get you out of depression.

A study [10] published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology revealed that outdoor trainers reported increased energy and decreased feelings of depression. It may be one of the best natural ways to fight winter depression.

Don’t let cold weather stop you from going out and start jogging during winter. Here are a few things you can do to start and actually have fun.

Tips For Running In The Cold Weather

Running in the cold might be interesting and beneficial but you should take your time to adequately prepare for winter runs. Adhere to the following tips to get the most out of running in the winter.

Check Weather Forcast

Is it safe to run in the cold- weather forecast

You should check the weather forecast before getting on the road. Find out whether rain or snow is on its way, these would not only affect your path but affect you.

Water draws heat away 25 times faster than cold air because of its high density, keep that in mind before your run in the cold rain.


Is it safe to run in the cold- Warm-up

Get enough warm-up and cool down. For cold seasons, it is generally advised that you make sure your warm-up is longer while your cool down should be very short. If you are a beginner, start with a brisk walk before progressing to something faster. This will also help warm up your muscles.

Start Slow

Is it safe to run in the cold- start slow

You should start slowly. The cold weather is not the time to launch your inner Usain Bolt, you should start slowly and later go at a moderate pace. Unless you are training for a tournament, aerobic running is good for cold running.

Layer up your clothes

Is it safe to run in the cold- Layer up your clothes
  • First, use synthetic fabric to draw sweat away. If you are very sensitive to cold consider a heater vest.
  • Cover your hands adequately as they are more susceptible to cold air. Consider heated gloves to attain more comfort.
  • Wear something very bright or reflective. The cold season is usually characterized by gray and cloudy weather making it harder for drivers to see you.

Wear a scarf to warm up the air that is inhaled and moisturizing your skin.

Look for the warning signs. The first sign of frostbite is numbness followed by a tingling or burning sensation. For hypothermia, shivering and confusion are red flags.

Precautions to be taken when running in the cold

It is advisable to take proper precautions for whatever it is you want to engage in. For cold running, the risky parts are:

  • For those who have a history of heart disease. Research[11] hints that the cold may cause blood pressure to rise, putting people who have heart diseases at risk when they engage in it.
  • The combination of dry, cold air and prolonged exercise can put a lot of stress on your airways exposing your lungs to danger in the process.
  • Hypothermia. Characterized by rapid heat loss and loss of cognitive ability, this condition is very deadly.

Caution: According to Vascular Heath Clinic, If you suffer from existing heart or respiratory problems, you are more vulnerable to the cold effect. When it is cold, your heart must pump much harder than usual to keep your body warm. As a result, you are more likely to have high blood pressure.

Alternatives to Cold Running

Running in the cold might be exhilarating and all but sometimes the weather might feel too cold or for some reason or another, you don’t feel up to it. Here are a few alternatives you can consider.

  • The treadmill

A treadmill is a machine that allows you to get indoor running done from the comfort of your home or a gym. It is known for its adjustable speed and impact on the leg.

  • Use a fitness trampoline

They deliver the same benefits as running and even offer additional benefits of being gentler on joints, more fun, and safe for beginners and seniors. To know more about the fitness tramp also known as a rebounder, check this article.

You Can Get Started Now

Jogging and running in cold weather have multiple benefits and it is completely safe as long as you are healthy. It makes you happier and more energized, improves your vitamin D, and strengthen your heart and muscles during winter. For a safe and fun run, you need to hydrate, moisturize your skin and lips and wear proper clothing. We recommend paying more attention to some sensitive areas such as your head, fingers, ears, and your feet.

Just remember not to push it when the weather feels too frosty. There’s always an indoor running alternative.

Now is your turn, would you rather exercise in the heat or do you enjoy the cold more? Let us know in the comment section.


  1.  The impact of weather on summer and winter exercise behaviors
  2. Mayo Clinic: “Winter Fitness: Safety tips for exercising outdoors”
  3. The New York Times: “Too Cold to Exercise? Try Another Excuse”
  4. Healthline: ”Types of body fat: Benefits, Dangers, and more”
  5. Healthline: “Brown fat: what you should know”
  6. 12, 13-diHOME: An Exercise-Induced Lipokine that Increases Skeletal Muscle Fatty Acid Uptake
  7. Cool temperature alters Human Fat and Metabolism
  8. Center for Disease Control: “Physical Activity”
  9. Shape: “How to Prevent and Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder”
  10. Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review
  11. Cardiovascular diseases, Cold, Exposure, and Exercise.

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