Why you should be running outdoors this winter

Swap the treadmill for the trail

10 (1 reviews) Rate this page

Health Advisor

30 October 2018

Why choose to run outside?

When it’s cold and miserable outside, it can be so tempting to just curl up inside and hibernate all winter. However, getting up and active is a great way to boost energy levels and mood during the dark winter months.

It might sound crazy, but I always encourage people to run outside during the winter. Yes, you heard that right!

So why should you brave the chilly weather and take your runs outside this winter?

Benefit from the fresh air

During the winter we spend a lot of time indoors, sitting in stale, air-conditioned air. This isn’t great for your body as this air is likely to be lower in oxygen and full of cold and flu viruses!

Exercising outdoors helps to circulate fresh, oxygen-rich blood around the body. This improved circulation helps to nourish the whole body, but also helps to mobilise the immune cells, allowing them to scour the body for viruses and bacteria. 

In fact, running on forest trails is thought to do more than simply boost circulation and improve fitness. Spending time in forests, also known as forest-bathing or Shinrin-yoku, is thought to have some major health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, improving mood and promoting the immune system.  The benefits to the immune system in particular are thought to be the result of the essential oils released by wood and plants called phytoncide.

Avoid the germ-filled gym

In the winter it seems like cold and flu viruses everywhere – in the workplace, on public transport and, yes, in your local gym! 

Gyms tend to be full of people in close proximity, using and touching the same pieces of equipment all day. The air conditioning also means that air is often recirculated throughout the building all day, allowing viruses and bacteria to gather. 

Get some natural daylight

Our bodies are highly dependent on the natural day and night cycles: as the day brightens, we release serotonin, the hormone that makes us feel lively and happy, and as the light fades, we release melatonin, the sleep hormone. This can get thrown out of balance in the winter as the days are much shorter.

To make matters worse, we tend to spend very little time outside in the natural light during winter – we wake up in the dark, sit at work or at home all day, and then it’s often dark by the time we get home. This can leave us fatigued, and often quite low as we produce too much melatonin. 

In fact, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression only experienced in winter, due to this lack of sunlight and incorrect hormone balance. 

If you can squeeze in an afternoon run while it’s still light, your body and mind will really thank you for it! Not only will the fresh air and endorphins energise you but the daylight will remind your body and mind that it should be fully awake.

What to wear when running in cold temperatures

Your usual running gear – leggings or shorts and a t-shirt – will likely not be suitable when the weather drops into single figures. However, your woolly jumpers and ski jackets may not be the answer either!

My advice is to wear layers so that you can strip them off as you warm up during your run. Try pairing a thermal long-sleeved t shirt with a sweater or running jacket – and if it’s really cold you might want to wear all three. Don’t be afraid to wear a hat and gloves too!

Your local running shop will also probably sell specialised running clothes for the winter, including thermal leggings, tops and gloves.

Is it safe to run outside in the winter?

As long as you’re sensible, then yes, it’s perfectly safe!

However, I do have a few pieces of advice to make sure your run is as safe as possible:

  • Stick close to home. If the temperatures suddenly plummet or a blizzard appears out of nowhere, you don’t want to be trapped in the middle of nowhere
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast. This is another great way to make sure you don’t get stuck in poor weather
  • Stay near busy areas. If you slip on ice and injure yourself, you don’t want to be too far from other people. This could mean running in the city, or in a forest or park that’s popular with dog walkers
  • Take it slow. Running in cold weather can be a bit of a shock, and your lungs and throat may not appreciate the icy air at first. Take a few short runs first to get used to it before trying out a 5K
  • Don’t forget your reflective clothing! Running in the winter often means running in poor light, so make sure you’re wearing something reflective or even a head-torch if you need.

Want to get started? Read my top 5 tips for running in cold weather.


Originally written on 11/10/2017, updated on 30/10/2018.

A.Vogel Atrogel Muscle Aches & Pains


£ 7.50

Buy now

Arnica gel for relief of muscle pains, stiffness, sprains and bruising. 100ml size available.
More info

What's being asked

I have knee pain while I’m running, how can I prevent this?

Knee pain is pretty common while running, but it is also easy to prevent! Check your footfall when ...
Read more >

I have been cycling for several months now and I have developed a pain in my left hip. What could be causing this and how can I fix it?

Hip pain while cycling can occur through over-training or stiffness in the hip joints. Make sure ...
Read more >

Should I eat breakfast before running?

This depends on the length and intensity of the run, if you are running for under an hour generally ...
Read more >

Cherry and Almond Protein Balls

These tasty protein balls are the perfect pre- or post-workout snack!

Get the recipe

Here's what I recommend

As the A.Vogel Muscles and Joints advisor, I recommend Atrogel® Arnica gel to ease stiff, sore muscles after exercise.

Learn more

Did you know?

Peanut butter is a great food to fuel up on before a 5K or 10K because of its low GI, high carbohydrate and high protein content.

What to eat before a 5K or 10K

Recover the right way!

Balance Mineral Drink helps to replace electrolytes and reduce fatigue, making it the perfect post-workout recovery drink!

Learn more

Improve your flexibility!

Join Hetty and Martin in the A.Vogel gardens to improve your flexibility.

View flexibility videos

Healthy & nutritious dinner ideas

Get new recipes in your inbox every week. Sign up now

Buy A.Vogel Pollinosan Hayfever Luffa Nasal Spray Was £8.25 Now £4.99

     Receive healthy recipes from A.Vogel      every month.


Receive healthy recipes from A.Vogel every month

Sign up now