I’ve got a new program, or a slightly different format for a program I’ve been doing for the last few years, to share with you. But before I do that, I’d like to share some exciting news about temperature. I’m an advocate for outdoor activity and exercise. That’s not saying that I’m opposed to training indoors when the weather is quite inclement, or when the need for what the gym offers is paramount. But being outside and experiencing the many things a more natural world has to offer, including varying temperatures, can have profound effects on health and additive benefits in our training. New research supports this temperature change phenomenon.
In an article just published last week in the Netherlands, researchers documented how exposure to daily fluctuations in temperature, as opposed to constant indoor readings, can improve a variety of critical health measures. In particular, mild cold exposure, not necessarily to the degree that causes shivering, which creates mild discomfort, can improve fat-burning, insulin sensitivity, and cardiovascular disease risk. While this can be accomplished indoors by changing settings on thermostats, etc., the effect of being outdoors, and perhaps not overdressed, can result in a greater level of what is known as cold-induced thermogenesis, or a revving of the metabolism due to temperature.
I’ve recommended cool tubs or rinses for a long time, and these are great tools to employ for a variety of hormone-balancing effects. However, I want to posit why outdoor exercise sessions can be multiplicative in health and fitness gains. Since we know that temperature change and cold exposure can have powerful health effects (supported by the recent Dutch study), one could argue that you could just train in a cool gym, or an unheated garage. And you will probably get some benefits, particularly if there is a significant difference in temperature from your usual indoor environment. But getting outside, and sometimes dealing with the realities of weather, can be a more powerful stimulus. I have a number of clients, and several groups, that meet and train outside regularly, in southwest Montana, all year long, regardless of weather. As you can imagine, we experience everything from 20 degrees below zero to 100 above, high winds, driving rain, sleet, and snow (none of us work for the United States Postal Service!), mud, and the occasional mild sunny moment when the birds chirp. The metabolic “upshift” of this exposure is exponentially greater than we can get indoors. Temperature change in your fitness pursuits is good to do, at least some of the time.
Also, when outside, especially when rolling around in the grass, and grabbing tractor tires, sandbags, and hanging from playground equipment, we get exposed to soil-borne organisms that improve our immune function. And light, precious light, is enhanced to a great degree. Even on a cloudy day, the outdoor light intensity, measured in lux, is significantly higher than can be created indoors. This helps to optimize our circadian function and improve our sleep quality. And then there is the mood elevation, with multiple studies showing that being outdoors, and moving, increases our levels of the neurotransmitter seratonin, which associates with improved mental and cognitive states. The list goes on, but it’s partially about getting the most bang out of your fitness buck, or the maximum return on your fitness investment. It’s also about being a functional, primal, human animal, and not thinking about calories, metabolic equivalents, minutes, heartbeats, and the like. It’s about enjoying being in the elements, and experiencing all their glory, either fighting and withstanding them, or not resisting and letting the cold wind pass through, over, and around you. Get outside. It’s great for your health, and there are more benefits than we know.
Now I get to describe The Lifetime Hunter, a program that just went live and about which I’m extremely excited. A fitting segue, as spending time outdoors while hunting and fishing is a passionate pursuit of so many of my clients, as well as yours truly. I’ve spent my life enjoying the outdoor world, being humbled by weather and seasonal change, and often getting awestruck by majestic scenery. I’ve always held a great reverence for wild creatures and the places in which they exist. And, combined with my experience and study in nutrition, I’ve always promoted an ethical field-to-table journey for sustainable wild edibles while investing in wildlife habitat and supporting management. But, as many of you know, time afield is more than any of those things, it’s a natural, instinctive existence that is a spiritual renewal. It’s a necessary human function that I neither want to see disappear from our modern world, nor vanish from our gene pool. I won’t let that happen. As I matured a bit (or at least got a little older), I began to realize that conditioning for my outings made them more enjoyable, safe, and effective. I also started to recognize that the focused forms of hunting and fishing had many similar movement demands, and that a training program could be specifically developed to meet those needs. Able to be scaled and modified to fit most individuals, the Lifetime Hunter Fitness System is an online program that helps to prepare hunters and fishermen to do the things they love. This year’s session runs from June through August, and signups are currently open. For the local, Bozeman, Montana-based folks, there will even be a weekly outdoor group session included. If you’re interested, check it out, or share it with someone who would be. Thanks so much and enjoy your daily temperature variations!