Can Exercising Outside In The Cold Freeze Your Lungs?

Can running or riding outside in the extreme cold freeze your lungs? EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman has your answer.

Video Transcription:

Winter is here my rosy-cheeked runners and bone-chilled bikers. And like John Snow, some endurance athletes still think that exercising in the extreme cold can freeze their lungs. Today we are gonna dispel this myth.

Good morning endurance friends! Matt Mosman, co-founder of EndurElite, the maker of premium supplements for endurance athletes, and endurance training and supplement expert. I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and happy new year. It has been very cold here in South Dakota the last few days. We're talking temperatures not getting above zero for the last four days. Some might say it's as cold as a witch's teat. I don't know exactly what that means, but it sounds pretty damn cold. But for the first time today, the temperature got above zero and what we call that in South Dakota during the winter is a heat wave.

Is Exercising In The Cold Bad For You?

But, speaking of the very extreme cold, we're gonna dispel a myth today that a lot of endurance athletes buy into. And that is running, biking, or doing other endurance exercise in the extreme cold can freeze your lungs. Now, that's a bunch of poppycock. That's right. I said "poppycock" and I'm gonna use a little bit of science to explain why it's physically impossible for you lungs to freeze if you're exercising outdoors when it's below zero, or just, you know, really extremely cold.

Why It Is Impossible For Your Lungs To Freeze In The Cold

And why this is, is there are blood vessels in your nose, in your mouth, in your throat, that, as the name implies, contains blood that releases heat that warms the air as it enters your nasal cavity, your mouth. So, it warms the air up. Additionally, the mucus found in the nasal cavity, in the mouth and throat, helps humidify the air. So, as the air goes through the nasal cavity, it goes down to the throat, the larynx, the trachea or windpipe, and eventually hit the lungs. Now, even if cold air did hit the lungs, there is such a huge supply of blood to the lungs that releases heat, that there is absolutely no way that that that air would still be cold, or cold enough, to freeze your lungs. So, physically impossible to freeze your lungs during endurance exercise, during the winter, or in the extreme cold.

The Cold Air Can Irritate Your Throat And Cause Respiratory Problems

Now, what can happen though, is if the air is really cold and dry, like say you live in Colorado, there's a possibility that that cold air can irritate your throat and whatnot. Especially with those with asthma or other respiratory problems. You may feel like a burning or scratchy feeling in the back of your throat. Usually, with exposure, or chronic exposure to the cold, this will go away after a while. But, in the meantime, it's highly recommended that you wear some kind of face mask or scarf that'll warm and humidify the air just a little bit more before you breathe it in. But, the real threat, and a lot of you know this, to running in the extreme cold, is exposure and what that can do to your skin. So, the most sensitive areas that you want to protect when you're out running or riding in the extreme cold are obviously your ears, your cheeks, your nose. For you men, you gotta watch the old "frank and beans" too, you know I highly recommend some windproof running briefs.

What You Should Wear When Exercising In The Cold

My apparel of choice when it's really cold - a good stocking hat, a good windproof, fleece-lined jacket. This is a Gortex jacket that I'll wear. No wind can get through there. Good pair of Yaktrax, for traction, if it's really snowy or icy out. Face mask, complete with about eight pounds of snot right now. I need to wash that thing. Mittens. This is a lobster mitt. Your fingers have little buddies in here so they stay warm. Live long and prosper. You "Trekkies" will get that one. And them some Adidas running pants right here. Got my tight pants on. And of course, fuzzy running britches. Ah! Just kiddin'. So, really protect those areas when you're out running as, again, this is going to be the biggest danger of exercising in the cold. The last thing you want to do is get frostbite, like say on your fingers and have to lop those puppies off. So, that's about it for today, my endurance friends. If you like this video, please share it with your friends. Comment below with your best winter running/riding hacks, and then if you want more contact like this, or content, excuse me, go to and until next time, stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and stay warm.