Dr Michael Mosley shares the perfect time of year to exercise

In December it can be especially hard to find the motivation for exercise.

The cold, wet weather combined with fewer daylight hours can be uninspiring, and with Christmas just around the corner many of us will put off physical activities until the New Year.

But one expert has advised that this could actually be the best time of year to exercise.

On a new BBC Radio 4 podcast, Cold Therapy, Dr Michael Mosley explored the benefits of working out in the cold.

As reported by Wales Online, Dr Mosley said: “Not surprisingly, we tend to be much less active in the winter months than during the summer, when it’s warm and dry.

“But there are some real advantages to exercising when it’s colder, not least that you’ll probably find it easier.

“Believe it or not, you can work harder, faster, and get fit quicker if it’s a little cooler outside.”

Dr Mosley introduced a guest onto the show, Dr Chris Tyler from the University of Roehampton.

He has been working with cyclists, runners, the military, firefighters and Formula One drivers to see the impact of hot and cold environments on their performance.

Running in the cold was found to yield a better performance, and Dr Tyler said the best temperature for recreational runners was around 10C or 11C.

However, the optimal temperature for elite marathon runners was even colder – between 4C and 8C.

This is supported by a 2022 study, published in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise journal, which looked at data from 1,000 running events and found the best temperatures to be between 7.5C and 15C.

Dr Mosley explained this is partly due to the simple reason that people performing in colder temperatures don’t get as hot.

Dr Tyler added that this means the body is under less stress.

In colder temperatures there is less need to expel heat from the body, meaning less blood is sent to the skin and the heart doesn’t work as hard.

Dr Mosley said: “So you can keep going for longer at a higher intensity.

“What’s clear is that exercising on a winter’s day could be surprisingly beneficial.”

Dr Tyler added: “That means that you can exercise harder, if you want, for the same level of strain as you’d experience in other conditions and that might mean that you run faster or get more fitness benefits as a result, or it might mean that you just exercise at the same intensity under a lower strain and have less potential consequences of doing so.”

However, Dr Mosley issued a warning to people who aren’t regular runners.

He stated that the benefits stopped at around 11C.

According to Dr Mosley, if it is colder than this it could negatively affect your ability to exercise.

Further to this, cold and dry air can aggravate the lungs, especially if you have a condition such as asthma.

The expert added that people with heart conditions should speak to their GP first.

“Going for a run or brisk walk at any time of year is going to be good for your heart and brain, but, as I’ve discovered, you should find, on the whole, exercising in the winter is easier,” Dr Mosley said.

“Regular exercise is a great way to boost your immune system and during these colder months in particular, that can only be a good thing.”

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