Running in the winter is easier on your body

New study finds running in cooler winter conditions can help runners achieve PBs over 10km distances.

• Heart rate 6% lower when running in the British winter
• 38% higher sweat rates in British summer
• 1.3 litres of sweat lost in 40 minutes of exercise in British summer
• 32% improved thermal sensation by running in cooler conditions

Finding the motivation to head outside in the colder weather can often be hard, but new research has shown that running in cooler temperatures causes less stress on the body and could help you achieve a new PB this winter. The Winter Run Series commissioned the research after numerous anecdotal reports from runners, and asked one of the UK’s leading experts to see if science proved the theory.

Professor John Brewer from St. Mary’s University in London has conducted research into running in cooler temperatures and found that it could significantly improve a runner’s personal best over a 10km distance. This is due to a reduced cardiovascular strain on the body including a lower heart rate and dehydration levels. Specifically centred on the conditions of the United Kingdom, this research examined data from male athletes whilst running in environmentally controlled laboratory in warm (22.3 ⁰C) and cold (8⁰C) temperatures.

The tests consisted of three sessions with each participant. The initial session identified preliminary values, including a graded exercise test to exhaustion to establish aerobic capacity (VO2max). The oxygen uptake (Vo2) vs running speed relationship was then utilised to identify the speed equating to 70% VO2max.

Once attained, two subsequent trials were completed at the same intensity and time in both cool and warm temperatures where physiological measures of heart rate and blood lactate were measured along with perceived measures of thermal sensation over a 40 minute period to replicate that of a 10K.

From the results, the warmer conditions posed an increased challenge on the body’s thermoregulatory and physiological systems. The runners’ heart rates were on average 6% higher in the warmer conditions, which can lead to impaired performance. The study also observed a huge difference in sweat rate. A huge peak sweat loss of 1.3L after 40 minutes of exercise was recorded in the warm conditions, which was 38% higher than in cooler conditions.

Professor John Brewer, head of Applied Sport Science at St. Mary’s University concludes by saying “this study has shown that an improved physiological response in the cool conditions, evident by significantly lower heart rates and enhanced thermal comfort, can significantly improve an athlete’s chances of achieving a ‘personal best’ time in a distance event such as a 10k run.”

In the UK, average temperatures in February are 7⁰C, which is great news for those runners who are looking to achieve that PB this winter. The Winter Run Series events will take place in London on the 5th February 2017 and in Manchester on the 12th February 2017. This unique winter race is challenging people to keep running through the cold by taking on a 10km run. In London, 18,000 people are expected to fill the streets and conquer the cold, making their way past the city’s most iconic landmarks and the famous high-fiving Penguins before crossing the finish line to be greeted by Polar Bear hugs.