Does running in the cold burn more calories?
A running friend of mine asked me this question recently:
Do you use a lot more energy running when it's cold out than you do when it's warm?
The answer is no, running in colder weather will not increase caloric expenditure. Although the idea is alluring for those trying to lose weight as their New Year's resolution, running in the winter will not shed off more fat than running during other times of the year. Consider this:
If you are living in a colder climate you would probably have a higher RESTING metabolism and may be shivering which burns more calories. Shivering can increase resting metabolism up to five times the normal rate, but you probably spend very little time shivering during the day.
When muscles are active, like with running, most of the energy produced by the muscles is heat. When running in warm weather the body increases blood flow to the skin, and produces sweat to dissipate this heat. The excess heat is lost.
Now if you are running in cold, the heat produced by the working muscles is enough to heat the body. You probably notice that you start sweating underneath your layers of clothing. You are not burning extra calories to keep warm; you are still trying to get rid of excess heat from the activity.
Also, if it is -20 degrees with wind chill for example, how much of that is due to the wind? If it is really windy, but you are wearing wind-proof clothing, then that wind chill factor will not have as much effect on lowering your temperature.
In summary, soon after you start running your body is sweating even in cold weather (assuming you are dressed appropriately). That's because the heat produced from the run whether it is warm or cold would be more or less the same, and thus the caloric expenditure is the same. In both cases, the body is trying to cool itself off to maintain the normal 37-degree body temperature, not burn more calories to heat up to it.
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