Study finds exercising in the cold may drastically increase fat burning

If you live somewhere that is currently under a blanket of snow, now is a good time to head outside for some exercise — at least if you're looking to burn fat, according to a new study from the American Physiological Society. Researchers found that high-intensity exercise sessions conducted in 32F temperatures resulted in more fat burning than the same exercise in a 'thermoneutral' space.

The study involved volunteers described as overweight but moderately fit. They were tasked with participating in two weekly high-intensity exercise sessions involving 10 minutes of cycling at 90-percent of their max effort.

After each session of cycling sprints, the participants would cool down for 90 seconds by cycling at only 30-percent of their max effort. The key to the research was the temperatures presented — one session involved an ambient environment at a warm 70F and the other at a cold 32F.

Using a variety of measurements, including things like heart rate and core body temperature, the study found that fat burning during the exercise in a cold environment was considerably higher than the same in a warmer environment.

The researchers explained, "The present study found that high-intensity exercise in the cold increased lipid oxidation by 358% during the exercise bout in comparison to high-intensity exercise in a thermoneutral environment." The findings join a body of research on cold temperatures and their effect on the body, including the potential to increase energy-burning brown fat.