Does the Body Burn More Calories in the Cold?

Does the Body Burn More Calories in the Cold?

Winter is here, and red noses are aplenty. Big coats shield us from the icy cold, and boots work their hardest to keep our feet nice and warm. Still, the chill of winter wind sends a shiver through the body every time a breeze blows by just the right way. Logically speaking, it makes sense to think that between our bodies constantly working to keep us warm in the winter months, that the body would obviously burn more calories in cold weather – right?

Not exactly, but kind of.

Cold weather is not the sole deciding factor dictating whether or not our bodies go into calorie-burning mode. It’s more so the process our bodies undergo once we start shivering from a temperature drop. This process is called thermogenesis. One way of this happening is to shiver, which is when the muscles contract involuntarily in order to create warmth and help maintain a healthy body temperature.

Or, your body could go into non-shivering thermogenesis. This is where the body’s brown fat breaks down to release heat and, again, help warm the body up. Both shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis increase the body’s energy expenditure, which helps burn calories. This is why your body may burn more calories in colder weather.

However, those two energy-expending and calorie-burning processes only kick into high gear when the body is truly cold. Once exercise begins, and the body naturally warms up from it, the body isn’t going to burn any extra calories just because of the weather. But don’t use that as an excuse to not exercise this winter season, sitting around and being sedentary is no way to keep the body healthy during the chilly months.

The Caloric Burn Breakdown

  1. BMR: Your basic daily caloric burn, known as BMR, or basal metabolic rate. That’s how many calories your body needs just to function at rest. (~60% – ~80% total energy expenditure)
  2. FOOD BREAKDOWN: The energy needed to break down all that yummy food consumed throughout the day. (~10% total energy expenditure)
  3. EXERCISING: Lastly, the energy needed when engaging in physical activity. (~10% – ~30% total energy expenditure)

The calories burned during thermogenesis plays a substantially small role in overall expenditure, less than 5% – 10% actually.1 In one study where individuals were put in cold rooms for an entire day, subjects burned an additional 150 to 200 calories.2 That’s not ideal or healthy, and not a smart way to burn extra calories.

So, if you’re looking to burn extra calories this winter season, then up your fitness routine rather than your time freezing in the cold. And for those of you looking to take your workout season indoors, get a 5-day LA Fitness guest pass here.


  1. Belluz, Julia. “Do You Burn More Calories Exercising in the Cold? Here’s What the Science Says.” Vox, Vox, 6 Feb. 2018,
  2. Ibid


  1. Praderio, Caroline. “If Your Office Is Freezing This Summer, You Might Be Burning Extra Calories.” INSIDER, INSIDER, 3 July 2018,

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AAT: Ep. 34 – How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting While Pregnant

AAT: Ep. 34 – How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting While Pregnant

Ask A Trainer: Featured Question of the Week

On this episode of ‘Ask A Trainer’ we speak with LA Fitness Pro Results® trainer Morgan C., and get her expert advice on how much weight is safe to lift while pregnant.

Do you have a fitness question? Ask one of our certified Pro Results® trainers here! Your question may be featured in an upcoming Ask Our Trainer video.**

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**Selected submissions will be featured on the LA Fitness blog and possibly other LA Fitness digital media entities & websites. By making a submission, you hereby grant LA Fitness a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable license to use and make copies of the contents of such submission for any purpose and in any medium whatsoever, and you hereby waive and relinquish any copyright or other intellectual property right you may have in the contents of such submission and your right to pursue any claim for LA Fitness’s violation of those intellectual property rights.

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Exercising During Cold and Flu Season

Exercising During Cold and Flu Season

We are in the midst of cold and flu season. Have you taken the precautionary measures to avoid headaches and runny noses looming in every office building, school classroom and store this season?

We spoke with Chris McGilmer, MD, a sports and family medicine specialist at the Kaiser Permanente North Hollywood Medical Offices, who gave his expert advice on how to best protect the immune system this season and whether or not it’s okay to work out when sick.

This is what he shared:

How does exercise support our immune health?

Exercise, along with other healthy habits, can help strengthen our immune system. A healthy immune system protects us from infection and disease, including the viruses that cause colds and flu.

Some research has found that people who exercise regularly are less prone to illness because they have a better immune system response. Plus, exercise can help us manage stress and reduce the release of stress-related hormones. This is important because stress can be detrimental to our immune function. Other studies have found that exercise can help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways – thus reducing our risk of respiratory illness – and that exercise can boost our number of infection-fighting white blood cells.

Is it okay to work out when you’re sick? When is it safe to exercise?

Exercise is recommended as long as your illness is mild and feel well enough to work out. For example, most people who have a common cold or mild upper respiratory symptoms, like a stuffed or runny nose, are generally able to work out. You’ll very likely have to lower the intensity and you’ll definitely need to monitor your heart rate and breathing. Certain decongestants and cold medications can increase the heart rate. Although some individuals with asthma and other chronic respiratory health conditions can exercise without any issues, it’s best that they reach out to their doctor to see if they can continue being physically active while they are sick.

Please keep in mind that overexertion can make you feel worse and slow down your recovery.

When are you too sick to work out? When is exercise not recommended?

If you’re experiencing a fever of 101.5 degrees or more, body aches, congestion, gastrointestinal issues, or feeling weakness, please wait a few days before working out. Also, drink plenty of fluids while you’re recovering to avoid dehydration both while you’re sick and when you return to your fitness regimen.

When is it okay to return to your exercise routine?

Typically, it’s okay to return to your exercise routine 48 hours after a fever has broken or diarrhea or vomiting has stopped. Your best gauge is your overall well-being. If you feel good, great. If your body is telling you to take another day off, listen to it!


Can you really sweat out a cold?

No. Sweating methods, such as a sauna or steam room, inhaling warm steam and exercise can provide temporary relief by relieving nasal congestion and loosening up mucus, but they will not shorten your recovery time. It normally takes seven to 10 days to fully recover from a common cold. If you choose to incorporate a “sweat out method” as part of your treatment plan, drink plenty of fluids and be on the lookout for possible signs of dehydration. When you sweat, you not only release water; you also release electrolytes.


Prevention Tips
  1. Get an annual flu shot. This is your best line of defense.
  2. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Our immune system needs a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals to function well.
  3. Get enough sleep. Inadequate sleep has been linked to a weakened immune system.
  4. Wash your hands constantly. A 20-second wash with soap and warm water is the best, but if water isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  5. Avoid touching your face. The most common way germs get into the body is via the face.
  6. Manage your stress levels. Chronic stress can increase your risk of illness.
  7. Avoid overtraining and exerting your body. Listen to your body and give it time to recover.
  8. If you exercise in a gym or fitness club, sanitize the equipment before and after your workout to minimize the spread of germs.

Content contributed by Chris McGilmer, MD, a sports and family medicine specialist at the Kaiser Permanente North Hollywood Medical Offices. 

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Member Spotlight | Meet Elite Fitness Athlete, Matt Harrison

Member Spotlight | Meet Elite Fitness Athlete, Matt Harrison

My Name is Matt Harrison. Six months ago, I set out to accomplish something I once considered impossible, now I am an Elite athlete.

Late 2017, at 34 years old, I found myself divorced, out of shape and satisfied with a familiar routine. I lacked hobbies, goals, and ambition. I didn’t know the feeling of pushing past my comfort zone. Life was passing me by. Feeling lost and alone, I turned to a friend who offered some wise words. He said, “Quit being a victim.” Through self-reflection, I realized the influence fear and doubt had on my daily decision-making. I was afraid to do anything unfamiliar or uncomfortable. More importantly-I was afraid to fail, afraid to lead, and afraid to strive for greatness. This realization awoke a burning desire to follow my passion and pursue fitness as a professional athlete.

This started with 3 commitments to myself:

  1. Be honest in personal assessments.
  2. Holding myself accountable.
  3. Surround myself with a positive community.

I competed in my first Spartan Race early March 2018. Starting training3 weeks prior, I had never run a race before, let alone 15 miles with obstacles. I was nervous and apprehensive to register for my first race but felt the time had come to face my fears and grow. My first race was a rude awakening. Lacking the strength and conditioning to complete the course at an elite level, I made a commitment to seek coaching and train harder every single day until my goal is reached. With a renewed perspective, I applied myself to the sport more than anything before. I no longer had the mindset of trying, but instead found the will to do what it takes, for as long as it takes.

In searching for coaches and accountability, I found much more. I found community and friends who took a serious interest in my success. I recognized limited beliefs that were keeping me from achieving my goals. I discovered friendships, family, and support when just a few months prior I felt alone and aimless. I learned to appreciate the journey and live in the moment. In the past 6 months, I climbed my first mountain, accomplished the largest elevation gain hike in North America, summited 11 peaks in under 24 hours and competed in 7 Spartan races finishing with2 Spartan podiums and qualifying for the 2018 Spartan Race World Championship.

I train hard as if I am the best in the world. At times I’m doubtful, tired, sore and even discouraged, but with a supportive team and my new-found mindset, I’ll never quit and continue to grow. Now 7 races into my Spartan career with an opportunity to race for the World Championship in September, I find myself in a position I could not have dreamed for myself just 6 months ago. Aside from physical strength and conditioning, I gained mental strength, wisdom, and relationships. Through fitness, I’m learning to live, love and appreciate the moment. Through fitness, I am taking back the reigns of my destiny.

To find out more about Matt’s story, check out our podcast episode How to Train Like an Elite Athlete, here.

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Gearing Up for The Holidays (9 Tips to Help Stay in Shape This Season)

Gearing Up for The Holidays (9 Tips to Help Stay in Shape This Season)

The last two months of the year tend to be full of holiday parties, family gatherings, cozy evenings indoors and an abundance of tasty treats. All this can greatly derail the health strides we’ve made throughout the year. While we all know how challenging it is to maintain our healthy habits during the holiday season, with a little determination, planning, and commitment, we can survive the holidays and start the New Year off right.

How to Stay on Track

Select your beverages wisely: Between the bubbly, the eggnog, the gingerbread lattes and the peppermint flavored mochas, a person can easily consume up to a third of their recommended caloric intake with just one drink! Instead, opt for fruit-infused sparkling water, cinnamon or fresh peppermint tea, a wine seltzer (half wine, half seltzer water, half the calories), and if you really want to satisfy the craving, a smaller and lighter version of your favorite holiday drink!

Practice portion control and be selective! You don’t have to stay away from all holiday foods! Treat yourself to one serving of your favorite dish and pair with fresh or steamed fruits and vegetables.

If you’re attending a party or a potluck, take a healthy dish. This guarantees that you’ll have access to at least one nutritious option.

Beware of those lunch room snacks! Yes…those cookies, cakes, and breads that magically appear by the coffee pot. Partake in the conversation with your colleagues and bring along your own healthy snack.

Satisfy a craving with a bite-size treat. You don’t need a full serving. Plus, if you don’t love it, don’t eat it.

Tips to Stay in Shape Over the Holidays

Lack of exercise and unhealthy eating lead to weight gain. They also increase our risk of disease and make it more difficult to manage chronic illness.

  1. Get your annual flu vaccine. Holiday stress, lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits – all these can weaken our immune system and increase our risk of illness. When we receive our annual flu shot, we greatly lower our risk of catching the flu, developing flu-related complications and having to take time off due to illness.
  2. Partner-up or even better, group-up! When you make a commitment with another person, you’re more likely to honor it. After all, no one likes a flake! A fitness partner can help motivate you, challenge you, pace you, and best of all, make it fun!
  3. Start your day with a morning work-out! Exercise is not only crucial for weight control, but it can also help us cope with holiday stress. One of the benefits of the recent time change is the fact that it gets lighter earlier. Become a morning person! Not only will you feel more energetic and accomplished throughout the day, but it also frees up your evening.
  4. On those rainy days, try an indoor workout! Yoga, Tai Chi, a 30-minute dance session, a stairs workout, heck, even musical chairs with the kids! Try anything that gets you moving!
  5. Start the day with a healthy breakfast. People who eat breakfast end up eating fewer calories throughout the day. Make sure you include a complex carb like oatmeal, whole grain bread or quinoa. Add some berries to your morning oatmeal for a delicious meal.
  6. Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals leads to hunger-eating which results in overeating. Consume healthy snacks throughout the day. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and non-fat yogurt are all great choices.
  7. Keep your body well hydrated. Regardless of the temperature outside, our body needs enough fluid to function properly. Our body can confuse thirst for hunger, and this can result in overeating.
  8. Take it easy! Holiday stress can make you feel overwhelmed. Only take on what you can handle. Ask for help and realize that it’s ok to say no.
  9. Make it a priority to get 7-8 hours of sleep. When we’re lacking sleep, our appetite is one of the first things to become skewed, thus resulting in weight gain. That’s because you’re more likely to consume extra calories from high fat and high sugar foods to cover the energy cost of staying awake. Lack of sleep impacts our hunger (ghrelin) and satiety (leptin) hormones. It also causes a spike in our cortisol levels, signaling our body to conserve energy to fuel our waking hours.

Content contributed by Dr. Sean Hashmi, an Obesity Medicine Specialist and the Adult Weight Management Lead for Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

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