Exercising in cold temperatures ‘could help burn off fat’

Rob Waugh
·2 min read
Athlete woman is running during winter training outside in cold snow weather.
Could exercising in the snow bring better results? (Getty)

In case you needed more motivation to get out there and burn off that Christmas weight, it turns out that winter temperatures might lend a helping hand.

A new study has suggested that exercising in the cold may actually help people burn off fat – at least, when it comes to high-intensity training.

Researchers at Canada’s Laurentian University asked volunteers to perform high-intensity interval training (HIIT) both indoors and outdoors (at a frigid 0C).

The research suggested that “lipid oxidation” (fat burning) was boosted significantly by exercising in the cold, New Atlas reports.

The research was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

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The effect was very noticeable directly after exercising, the researchers found.

The researchers wrote: “The present study found that high-intensity exercise in the cold increased lipid oxidation [fat-burning] by 358 percent during the exercise bout in comparison to high-intensity exercise in a thermoneutral environment.”

The researchers found, however, that it had little effect on fat-burning rates the next morning.

The 11 volunteers were healthy and active, but overweight, and took part in two HIIT sessions a week apart.

Each volunteer did a HIIT session, warmed down, ate a nutrition bar, slept, then ate a high-fat breakfast.

Researchers measured their skin temperature, core body temperature, heart rate and glucose and carbon dioxide levels.

The researchers drew blood samples to help calculate fat-burning levels the next day.

They found that while the effect of exercising in the cold was measurable during exercise itself, it had little effect on fat-burning rates the next day.

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The researchers wrote: "This is the first known study to investigate the effects of cold ambient temperatures on acute metabolism during high-intensity interval exercise, as well as postprandial metabolism the next day.”

"We observed that high-intensity interval exercise in a cold environment does change acute metabolism compared to a thermoneutral environment.

“However, the addition of a cold stimulus was less favourable for postprandial metabolic responses the following day."

The researchers cautioned that the small sample size means further study is needed – and were unable to offer any conclusions, for instance, on whether fat-burning rates were influenced by sex.

The researchers wrote: “Under matched energy expenditure conditions, HIIE demonstrated higher lipid oxidation rates during exercise in the cold.”

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