Should you walk or run when it’s cold?

Originally published at:


[X] Stay at home, with a nice glass of grog.


If you dress appropriately (layers, no exposed skin) running will make you very hot.


Sleep in.


Whatever makes you feel good.


Should you walk or run when it’s cold?

Yes. :wink:

My rules for exercise:

  1. More is better than less, but something is still way better than nothing.
  2. So do something every day.
  3. And if you don’t know what else to do, take a walk.

And if you can’t even manage a walk, go out and lay down in the driveway. Take as long as you like, then get up.

  1. You’re out of your chair.
  2. You’re away from your device.
  3. You’re out of the house.
  4. You just did a push-up, which means you’re already exercising.
  5. Now continue exercising.

ETA - Welp, watching the video, I see it’s not about exercise but about staying warm. So it goes.


At least one thing was not considered. On a longer run, in the cold, my circulation had been rerouted to my leg muscles, away from my hands. Consequently, my hands got painfully cold. I stopped running to allow some of my blood to be routed back to my hands. Of course, maybe it’s just because I’m an old fart.


Hmm, my first guess was that the total amount of cold air that I get exposed to (in the absence of wind) would be a function of distance only, independent of speed.
I’d get maximum heat loss by moving so slowly and carefully through the absolutely still air that I heat up every single molecule of air that I pass to body temperature.
And thus, I’d expect the total heat loss while running (at any speed) to shelter to be less than when walking.
And as the air will not be perfectly still, and the air will still conduct heat away from my body even when I’m not moving, I will actually be losing an infinite amount of heat (i.e. freeze to death) when I am standing still.

Now, energy consumption when running is approximately linear over a relatively wide range of running speeds, so the total amount of heat generated by running should be constant.
There is a certain amount of energy I can convert to heat without moving quickly (by jumping up and down, by running in place, or by good old-fashioned shivering), but I doubt that generated more heat per unit of time than a fast run.
But if the total expected heat loss exceeds the total expected heat generated from running (by a lethal amount), moving slowly but expending as much energy as possible might get me back into survivable territory. Assuming that I never get tired.

Also… calories per square meter and hour? Minutes per kilometer? Units like that make spacecraft explode.


Um, Canadian here, one time Northerner at that. This is actually not an entirely academic exercise. Couple of things the video leaves out. 1. Exercise causes perspiration. This is Very Bad. I mean, really really bad. When you run out of gas, when you stop running, and if you are soaking wet, well, you have a considerable problem. Incidentally, all the panting you have been doing whilst running isn’t great either. (Extreme cold survival trip #1: moisture is Very Bad. It is your number one enemy.)

In real world conditions, the correct answer is a moderately brisk walk. You want to generate some heat, but not a ton of it. Standing there freezing is not an option, eventually you have to get to shelter anyway. Running will tire you out and make you sweaty, and panting will lose you a LOT of heat. Like the song says, walk, don’t run.


He also didn’t consider how far it is to the ski lodge. Running a few yards is not like running thirty miles. Although, if they put you out in the snow naked, it must be some kind of Ski Lodge of the Damned, and maybe it’s better to run the other way while you can.


Having done my fair amount of running in the cold (sometimes in shorts and a T-shirt in sub-freezing weather), I can also tell you that BMI makes a difference. If you’re a skinny lad, you’re going to lose heat faster than a somewhat more portly gentleman. Hirsute gentlemen also change the equation a bit.


Nah…this question is too lame.
I am waiting to hear another question: “which gets one more wet, running in the rain -or- walking in the rain?”
( I’ve done the math plus some real data gathering so this is a no-brainer for me.)


A tangentially related query…Since exercising gets everything moving down there, as a runner, I’m occasionally vexed with the problem of getting through half of my run, and needing to poop. The quandary is whether it’s better to run or walk back. Running gets you home sooner, but it increases the urgency. Walking limits the urgency, but takes twice as long.

My solution has been to go before I go, but sometimes I don’t need to go until I’ve already gone. And no, I don’t need a video with stick figures to provide the answer.


Finally, a video on the health benefits of streaking!


The question is Should you Shovel Snow. The answer is almost always No.


I don’t have this problem, but when I was postpartum, I needed to pee more often. So I routed my run through a park with a bathroom, and past the public library (which also has a bathroom). Would that be possible?


It is possible, but a midrun poop introduces a whole other set of issues that I won’t describe.


Agreed, for an additional reason:

Unless the ground is pavement/concrete and dry, it’s hard to tell wet from icy, hard to tell snow that will be solid underfoot from snow that will give way and compact underfoot (and by how much), and hard to tell what is under any kind of loose snow: something that will give you reliable traction, something at won’t give you any traction at all, or something that will grab your foot and hold you back.

Unless you’re really good at figuring out what you’re about to step on, anything more than the moderately brisk walk you suggest is just asking to find yourself laid out on the ground, which tends to be colder than either running or walking.


Ah yes, being chased by the gingerbread man.

I guess the big question is how fast/slow can you waddle to a bathroom to make it there without any unfortunate incidents.


Did they factor in the heart attack risk factor?