Exercising at High-Intensity in the Cold Burns More Fat, Per Study

Winter season looks like the best time to get in shape.
Fabienne Lang

It's winter, it's dark and it's cold outside; the last thing you want to do is put on your running shoes to head out for a run. 

However, a recent study led by researchers from Laurentian University in Canada explained that high-intensity interval exercising in colder weather, at approximately 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celcius), burnt more fat than usual.

That said, metabolic responses the next day weren't as high as in thermoneutral environments.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.


It turns out that exercising at high intensity in colder weather increases lipid oxidation — the formal term for burning fat — by three times compared to during regular temperatures. 

The authors of the study reached this conclusion by carrying out exercise tests on 11 "moderately fit, overweight" adults.

The volunteers went through a standard set of high-intensity interval exercises (HIIE), also known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), at both 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celcius), and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celcius)

The team also looked at the participants' postprandial metabolism the next day, or after breakfast the next morning. 

"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," was the team's conclusion

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It seems that, when exercising in the cold, the participants' bodies' burnt fat 358 percent more directly afterwards than when doing so at a normal temperatures. However, there were no significant changes noted in the participants' bodies the next day after breakfast. 

In fact, postprandial metabolism was better in a thermoneutral environment.

"[W]hile acute benefits seem to be present during acute HIIE in the cold, postprandial metabolic responses are less favourable when high-intensity interval exercise is performed with acute cold exposure," wrote the authors. 

It has to be noted that more research on the matter needs to be conducted given the small number of participants in this study, as the study suggested.

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