Winter can be a challenging time to exercise. As the cold weather creeps closer you may prefer to hibernate under a blanket than face the chilly outdoors. But keeping your workout routine going can be more important than ever in the winter. We wrap up the facts for you here.
Staying motivated can be tricky. For instance, having the heating on high at home causes sluggishness and a decided reluctance to move. On the other hand, if it’s too cold you will want to eat more, and then hide under the biggest jumper you can find! Try the following tips to help keep your enthusiasm up:
Plan your sessions. Making sure you have a proper workout schedule is even more important in the winter due to shorter days. When mornings and evenings are dark and icy it’s not so easy just to head out for a run. Plus, once inside a warm home the thought of dragging yourself back out in the freezing cold is not so tempting, so consider working out before you get home. Decide what sort of exercise you will do and what time you will do it and you will be more likely to commit when the wintry weather does hit.
Take a friend. Research shows that buddying up with someone else makes you more likely to stick to your workouts when it gets difficult. Keeping in touch with other people is even more important during the winter due to the shorter days limiting our social interactions as we hibernate more at home.
Vary your workout. Winter is a good time to try some new fitness ideas and take advantage of the cold weather. Changing the course of your regular run, going for brisk family walks in the woods and putting a new fitness DVD on your Christmas list will all add some zest to the winter bleakness.
Adapt your routine
Remember to warm-up properly. Low temperatures may tighten muscles making them more prone to injuries. If you exercise outdoors you will need to work harder to keep your body warm (meaning more calories burned off!) When you cool down, you need to give your body time to adjust. Don’t immediately remove your layers when you come back indoors or you may risk post-exercise hypothermia.
Wear appropriate clothing. You may need to buy reflective gear if you run or cycle outside when it’s dark, or even invest in a small strobe light. Wearing layers is the most effective way to insulate your body outdoors. Start with a lightweight sweat wicking top, adding a heavier top, plus a wind-blocking jacket if necessary. If it’s very cold wear thermal gloves and a lightweight hat. Once you warm up you can remove unwanted layers.
Exercise indoors. If even thinking about exercising outdoors sends shivers up your spine then choose an indoor workout option. Join a gym, go swimming, or create a home workout using fitness DVDs, dumbbells, skipping rope and the stairs.
Remember the benefits of winter exercise
There are actually several reasons why it is MORE important to exercise in the winter:
Avoiding chest infections, common cold and circulation problems. Viruses spread more rapidly during colder weather and exercising will boost your immune system and help fight infections or avoid them altogether.
Extra food . Colder weather instinctively makes us want to eat more, usually high fat, comforting foods. Exercising keeps control of those extra calories, particularly over Christmas, and also gives us a head start on our health regime as we go into the New Year and beyond.
Beating the blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression caused by a lack of sunlight, low activity and poor nutrition, usually Vitamin D deficiencies. Moderate exercise, particularly outdoors, can help prevent SAD by releasing ‘feel-food’ endorphins. It will also help boost your body image and give you a real sense of achievement.
A rosy glow! Whether you exercise outdoors in the fresh air or indoors at the gym you will avoid that dull winter complexion by keeping your circulation moving. What’s more, your chilly hands and feet will benefit and your digestion and metabolism will be stirred into action! Exercise will also help to prevent stiff joints and muscles, and is a wakeup call for the brain.
For older, less active people, it is particularly important to keep the circulation moving during wintertime. Colder temperatures can make your blood vessels constrict leading to thicker blood and an increased risk of heart attacks.
Finally, change your attitude. If you embrace the cold weather rather than dreading it, you may find yourself jumping out of bed in the mornings to warm up your body, rather than turning up the heating and hiding under the duvet!
by Jessica Ward
by Kath Webb
by Jessica Ward
by Laura Briggs
by Jessica Ward