Monday, January 30, 2012

Ask Us Anything: Does the Body Burn More Calories in the Cold?

"Is it better to exercise outside in the cold or in a heated environment, such as a gym? I've heard that your body burns more calories if you work out in the cold."

Physical Therapist Richard Szabala Responds:

Generally speaking, there is no difference in the amount of calories you burn while exercising either in cold or heated environment. The calories you burn while exercising provides the fuel your body uses to perform the exercise activity, so the amount of calories burned is dependent on work, not body temperature.

The main thing that you need to be aware of is your body temperature. During exercise, your body produces heat while burning calories, and your body maintains your core temperature through sweating.

In a heated environment, you are wearing loose clothing, which allows for proper temperature regulation. However, when exercising in the cold, we bundle up at first to start warm. This bundling up can prevent proper temperature regulation. Therefore, if you choose to exercise in the cold, wear 3 to 4 layers of clothing so you can remove them as your body temperature increases.

At rest, your body will burn slightly more calories in a colder environment as your body's internal mechanism warms the core. This is accomplished by involuntary muscle contractions that we may experience as shivering.

– Richard Szabala PT, OCS

Richard Szabala is the senior physical therapist at AthletiCare Orchard Park.

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