Winter Runners Reap Physical, Mental Benefits: Expert

Outdoor run on cold days may even help prevent seasonal affective disorder, specialist says

SATURDAY, Oct. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Physical and mental health benefits abound for runners who keep pounding the pavement during the winter, according to a sports medicine expert.

"Running in all seasons stimulates the secretion of endorphins, and in cold weather this can have added physical benefits," Dr. Kevin Plancher, head of Plancher Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in New York City, said in a news release from the facility.

The release of endorphins can help fight seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression that occurs due to the reduced hours of daylight in fall and winter, Plancher said.

And whether or not you are suffering from SAD, endorphins secreted during a strenuous workout can lead to a feeling of euphoria, he added. "They make the runner feel great, a condition known as 'runner's high,'" he explained.

In addition, cold-weather running can help keep weight under control, especially during and after the holidays. And as a bonus, maintaining a steady workout routine helps prevent injuries when you begin new activities you're not used to, Plancher said.

If you do run in cold weather, Plancher noted, you need to take certain precautions:

  • Dress warmly and in layers to keep muscles warm.
  • Warm up with a light jog for about five minutes.
  • Stretch before and after a long run.
  • Because runners may not notice they're sweating in colder temperatures, it can be easy for them to become dehydrated. Drink water during and after running, and avoid caffeine.

"By keeping these simple facts in mind, runners can keep fit, maintain a healthy mind and body, and enjoy all the benefits of strenuous exercise. Cold-weather running, when undertaken with care, is a win-win situation," Plancher said.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers tips for a safe running program.

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