How Does the Temperature Affect Cardio Workouts?
Some people are able to work out rain or shine. For those that are more sensitive to the weather, there's a reason why you don't like it too hot or too cold. Doing cardio in both hot and cold temperatures will make things more difficult, but for different reasons.
Average room temperature is considered to be around 23 degrees Celsius, which translates to 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything significantly warmer or colder than that will change the way your body reacts to exercise. The hotter or colder the temperature is, the more you're affected.
Hot Weather Workouts
The most obvious challenge when you do cardio in warm weather is staying hydrated. During the hot summer months you can often work up a sweat simply by walking around. That means that cardio will be a sweaty endeavor.
After you've lost about 3 percent of your body's water your performance starts to suffer, according to a 2010 review published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. You'll slow down and your muscles will feel more tired.
To prevent dehydration start by drinking water before your workout. Try to drink water or a sports drink during your workout as well. Aim to drink every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.
Humidity also plays a big role in hot weather workouts. Even if the outside temperature isn't too hot, humidity can compound the heat and hurt your workout. Sweating cools your body when the moisture on your skin evaporates, but if the air is saturated with moisture it slows evaporation down. Be sure to dress appropriately if you decide to work out in hot or humid conditions, with light and breathable clothing.
Cold Weather Exercise
While hot weather has its own set of difficulties, cold weather can be equally as intimidating. Most people don't want to workout when the weather cools, according to a 2009 study in The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy. In the study, the researchers found that people worked out the least during the coldest months of the year.
Cold air around your body makes blood pull away from the surface of your skin to circulate around your organs in an attempt to keep them warm. That means the temperature of your muscles will start to drop, even if your core body temperature stays the same.
Problems with Oxygen
When your muscles get colder they don't get as much oxygen, which can be seriously detrimental to a cardio workout where they need oxygen for fuel.
Your aerobic abilities are limited when you work out in cold weather, according to a 2012 study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine. The researchers used something called VO2 max to figure out whether cardio was more challenging in cold, warm or hot climates.
VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that you can consume during exercise. Once you hit your max you have to slow down because it's too much for your body. In cold weather, you hit that ceiling sooner.
If you're going to run in cold weather, try to wear layers. With a few layers you can take them off as you warm up during your workout. That way, when you warm up and start to sweat you can add layers back on before you cool off.
- Public Health: The effect of season and weather on physical activity: A systematic review
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: Effect of exercise-induced dehydration on time-trial exercise performance: a meta-analysis
- European Journal of Applied Physiology: Influence of relative humidity on prolonged exercise capacity in a warm environment
- Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport: Physiological limits to exercise performance in the heat
- Human Kinetics: Exercise Performance and Cold Air Exposure*