There's SNOW stopping us! Why lockdown makes us exercise

There’s SNOW stopping us! As swimmers take the plunge in freezing temperatures, experts reveal why being cooped up makes us more determined to exercise – and how to do it safely

  • Cold water swimmers were seen taking the plunge in freezing temperatures
  • Boris Johnson, 56, was seen exercising outside with his personal trainer today 
  • Experts say lockdown has prompted a rise in the number of winter workouts
  • Revealed how to stay safe if you do want to exercise outdoors 

The water temperature was barely above freezing, but that didn’t stop hardy swimmers from plunging into the sea off the Kent coast this morning.  

Similar scenes have been witnessed across the UK, where people are continuing to cycle, run and swim despite the freezing temperatures and inches of snow brought by Storm Darcy. 

In the New Forest a pair of friends were snapped swimming past icicles dangling from bushes on the bank of the River Avon, while in London Prime Minister Boris Johnson braved the cold in a pair of shorts for a personal training session.  

Their determination to get outside and exercise despite the bitter Baltic weather is reflective of an overall mood that seems to have gripped the UK, with everyone from wild swimmers from cross-country runners spotted out and about in the snow. 

Taking the plunge: At Southend-on-Sea, in Essex, swimmers kept on their hats as they paddled in the freezing temperatures this morning. The water temperature was just above freezing

February freeze: This morning cold water swimmers Alison Ayling and Ali Routley were photographed swimming past a tree covered in icicles as they plunged into the River Avon at Fordingbridge, Hampshire, where it was -2C

In a ‘normal’ winter, one would expect only the most hardened of fitness fans to subject themselves to training in such uncomfortable conditions. 

But experts believe lockdown has triggered a rise in the number of ‘ordinary’ folk who have committed to winter workouts this year. 

‘I have noticed so many more people exerting outdoors even in this cold weather,’ personal trainer, Luke Gray, co-founder of online fitness studio, said in an interview with FEMAIL. 

‘People have been exercising outdoors more now than any other time, with the gyms closed and working from home, getting outside is a great option.’ 

A combination of living room fatigue, increased screen time, and limited ways to keep busy means outdoor exercise has become a welcome escape from the monotony of life in lockdown – and a bit of snow isn’t enough to put people off. 

Boris braves it: The temperature in London today is barely above freezing, but that didn’t stop Boris Johnson from heading out for his regular outdoor personal training session this morning

How to stay safe while working out in winter 

Professional runner David Hellard, presenter of Bad Boy Running Podcast and CLIF® ambassador, shares his tips: 

Wear thin long-sleeved layers

It’s hard to get your temperature right in winter – you’ll be tempted to wrap up warm, but as you exercise you may start to overheat, so wear thin long-sleeve layers. The layers trap warm air, but can be easily wrapped around your waist when you start to overheat. 

Train first thing in the morning

Many parks close in the afternoon and it gets dark so early, so get out first thing and see your surroundings in a completely different light. I lay out my kit at the foot of my bed so I’ve got no excuses for not getting out the door before the day gets away from me. It’s beautiful seeing all the dew on the grass and mist of the morning and I can reward myself with a nutritious breakfast afterwards!

The playground is your playground

You don’t need a gym to have an effective strength workout. Get creative and use your body weight and surroundings instead – benches are great for box-jumps and step-ups, slides can be used for sit-ups, while push-ups on a swing seat are great for your core. Or why not set yourself a run route, stopping every five minutes to find something near to use for another set of exercises. It’ll be fun, varied and keep you entertained.

Personal Trainer Chris Ruxton, from and, added: 

Spend extra time warming up 

The biggest issue with the weather is injury – for example by slipping on the snow or pulling a muscle. So, my advice is to have a longer warm up by getting your heart rate up and doing some squats and lunges for flexibility. Check out the terrain before running and try Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-on which helps warm up the muscles too.

The rule allowing for two people from different households to meet outside for the purpose of exercise is also likely to be a factor, elevating the humble workout from an uninviting chore to the highlight of the social calendar. 

The fact that gyms and exercise studios remain closed is also a contributing factor, forcing people who would have previously relied on indoor exercise to head outside when they otherwise wouldn’t have done. 

Luke continued: ‘With working from home, your office is not the only place associated with work: the whole house is a work zone. So, leaving that environment for an open space will help you to disassociate from the stress of work and will have huge benefits for your mental health.

‘Being cooped up inside allows us to appreciate the outdoors more, normally getting up and going to work is the daily routine for many and going outdoors to exercise especially in the winter months is unheard of. 

‘But as we are generally social animals, getting outside is a change from doing everything from home. Seeing other people also on a walk is quite comforting to see civilisation again.’

Fitness expert James Crossley, better known as Hunter from Gladiators agreed: ‘People are going stir crazy at home so a great way to get outdoors and break the monotony. Also, the social aspect of potentially running with someone else is great for mental health and companionship.’ 

This morning cold water swimmers Alison Ayling and Ali Routley were photographed swimming past a tree covered in icicles as they plunged into the River Avon at Fordingbridge, Hampshire, where it was -2C. 

At Southend-on-Sea, in Essex, swimmers kept on their hats as they paddled out into the sea. 

Celebrities are getting in on the action too. A few weeks ago, during another snow storm, adventurer Ben Fogle stripped off for a bare-chested run that he later posted about on Instagram. 

Exercising in cold temperatures is believed to possess some health benefits. 

A study last year by the University of Cambridge found taking a dip in cold water could help defend the brain against dementia and other degenerative diseases.

Other research suggests that exercising in cold weather can transform white fat, specifically belly and thigh fat, into calorie-burning brown fat. 

Ben bares it all! A few weeks ago, during another snow storm, adventurer Ben Fogle stripped off for a bare-chested run that he later posted about on Instagram

Plus, winter workouts help you get exposure to sunlight, which may help ward off seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that some people experience during the winter months.

It can also improve endurance, allowing you to exercise more. 

‘In colder temperatures your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you sweat less, and expend less energy, all of which means you can exercise more efficiently,’ noted Dr. Adam Tenforde, an assistant professor of sports medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.

However there are also risks associated with outdoor exercise, like hypothermia, and it could pose particular problems for people with conditions such as asthma or heart problems.  

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