A hot or cold environment, which is the best for your workout?

Research has shown that you can harness hot and cold conditions to achieve different things from your training session.

Cold-weather training is a popular way to toughen up and train at the same time. In the cold, your body can regulate its temperature a little better, meaning you can often exercise further or longer and burn more calories. There are some clinical signs that simply contending with cold weather encourages the body to transform everyday white fat, specifically belly fat and thigh fat, into calorie-burning “brown fat.”

People have more genetic markers for brown fat in the winter than they do during the warmer months*, and that could signal slightly more calorie burn in the winter as the body insulates itself.

Working out in the cold isn’t really available to us here in Thailand so is there a benefit from working out in the heat? In fact it does have one unusual benefit: It can help you perform better in cool weather which is great news for anyone training for competition in cooler climes.

In a 2010 study, researchers at the University of Oregon put 20 trained cyclists through 10 days of moderate workouts (90 minutes of cycling with a 10-minute break). The only difference: One group trained in brutal 104-degree heat, while the control group trained at a crisp 55 degrees. At the end of the 10 days all the riders were grouped back together and tested at 55 degrees. The heat-trained riders not only rode a whopping 6% faster in cool temperatures, but also produced 5% more aerobic power (measured as V̇o2max), 5% more power output at lactate threshold, and about 9.1% more cardiac output.

What’s behind the changes? The study pointed out that the heat-trained cyclists had more plasma in their blood. Cardio exercise in the heat, ultimately comes down to using blood for thermoregulation. Exercising in the heat, you need to send blood to your muscles so you can keep exercising, and you need to send blood to your skin so you can cool, so there is competition between the muscles and the skin. When your body senses that it doesn’t have enough blood to go around, it can create more plasma, and that can improve your performance when you’re in less scorching conditions. In turn, that increase in blood volume might stimulate the heart and increase the oxygen capacity of the blood.

Concluding, there is a benefit in exersizing in the tropical heat particularly if you are competing in cooler climates!