How to Burn More Calories by Exercising in the Cold

Did you know that the average person gains 5 – 10 lbs over the winter? That’s what happens when it’s cold out. We stay inside and we don’t move as much.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, new research suggests that exercising in the cold can be even more beneficial than when it’s warm. Why? For one, when your body shivers, you use 5x more energy than normal.

So if you’re jogging in the cold, parts of your exercising will be 5x more efficient. Now, although exercising in the cold has benefits, it needs to be done right. Otherwise, in a worst-case scenario, it could be dangerous.

How to Be Comfortable in Any Weather

For most of us, our ideal warm temperature is around 70 – 72 degrees Fahrenheit. When it gets between 50 – 60, most of us like a jacket. And below 50 is when it really starts to get cold.

The colder it is, the more distance you’ll want to put between the frigid air and your skin. The best way to do this is to use the concept of layers.

As the name suggests, when layering, you wear several different layers of clothing. The colder it is, the more layers you’ll use… and the warmer materials those layers will consist of.

If it’s 50 degrees, you’ll be fine with a light fleece or a heavier sweater.

In 30 degrees, a wool shirt, fleece, and light down jacket will keep you incredibly toasty.

exercise in winter

When It Gets Dangerous

Now, when layering, you need to pay attention to two things:

  1. Types of materials
  2. Activity level

Types of Materials

Different materials handle cold temperature differently. For example, you want to stay away from cotton at all costs. Why? Because when cotton gets wet, it loses all its ability to insulate and retain heat. Worse yet, it actually saps warmth from your body while wearing it.

When you jog or exercise, you’ll sweat… even if it’s freezing out. If you sweat with cotton on, suddenly it’ll be like you’re not wearing any protective gear on at all. It doesn’t matter if you have the heaviest fill down jacket on. With a cotton undershirt, you’re still freezing. 

Here are the kinds of materials you should look to wear in the winter:

  1. Wool
  2. Synthetic
  3. Down
exercise in winter

Wool is great for your lighter layers. Your shirts, fleece, and even pants if it’s cold enough. Synthetic is generally cheaper than wool and provides similar effects. Down is a heavy jacket that really keeps in warmth.

Adding or Shedding Layers

When it’s cold outside, you’ll gear up in your full winter garb. You might have a wool shirt, a fleece, and a down. Then you have some synthetic leggings and wool socks on. Since you’re exercising and building heat, this kind of outfit is good for temperatures as low as 5 – 10 degrees Fahrenheit!

No matter what kinds of material you’re wearing, you’ll want to be aware of your sweat. If possible, you want to avoid sweating at all. This is because no matter what kinds of materials you’re wearing, we want to avoid water in the cold.

As you’re exercising, the moment you feel a little bit hot, unzip your down jacket. Then, when you feel hot again, take it off. If you still feel hot after that… take off another layer. I recommend you take a small backpack with you, so you can easily store these layers. In this way, you will stay comfortable and warm your entire workout.

exercise in winter

Types of Exercises to Do in the Winter

Now that you have your gear sorted, it’s time to get out and enjoy the cold. In general, cardio based exercises are the most effective to do in winter. Here are a few examples that we recommend.


Jogging in the cold is one of the most meditative experiences. There’s something about the air when it’s below freezing. It’s quieter. And your thinking is clear. Generally at the start of your jog, you’ll be cold. You may start shivering… this is good. You’re burning a lot of calories. Of course, make sure that you check the conditions before leaving. If the streets are icy, that could be incredibly dangerous.


This one is my personal favorite. I love to hike in any temperature. But the winter can’t be beat. When the snow falls, it’s like an entirely new world. Rivers freeze over and it is truly beautiful. Plus it’s amazing exercise. If you want to hike in the winter, I recommend a very solid pair of winter boots. Leather is great for the long-term, provided you treat it correctly. For a more modern take, Gore-Tex boots will stay waterproof in almost every environment.  

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