FITNESS // why you should exercise in winter and how to stay motivated
Here in the northern hemisphere the season is turning. Leaves are changing colour and falling from the trees, the temperature is dropping, and daylight hours are diminishing. Afternoons on the beach and barbeques in the park have given way in favour of curling up on the sofa with a box set and hot chocolate. Our mammalian urge to hibernate kicks in. It’s no surprise then that the motivation we had to exercise, work out and get in shape for summer disappears at this time of year alongside our desire for salads and fruit.
You might ask, what is the point of exercising during autumn and winter? I’m going to be dressed in a massive coat most of the time and no one will notice if I put on a bit of weight.
Actually there are many reasons why having a solid training regime in place during the winter months is arguably the most important time of year to have one:
YOU’LL HAVE A BETTER BODY NEXT YEAR
Perhaps you spent the first part of the year working hard to look good for summer. Imagine if all the muscle and strength gains you made could be built on during the winter. If you keep training, you could start the new year from a far better position than if you lay off for a few months.
We are more likely to gain weight in winter through overindulging, comfort eating and reduced physical activity. By exercising we can still enjoy some hearty meals but avoid putting on the extra pounds.
BEAT THE BLUES
Research shows that one of the best treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which many of us suffer with to some degree is to reduce stress, exercise and get natural sunlight. There are three reasons right there to grab your trainers and get outdoors.
BURN MORE CALORIES
Here’s a fun fact for you: research shows that your body burns more calories when it is cold. So when you’re stood there shivering in your gym clothes before a workout, just remember that you’ve burned calories before even starting.
AVOID CATCHING THE LURGY
Exercise appears to increase immunity to seasonal viruses such as colds and flu. There are several theories as to why, for example:
- Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways;
- The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing;
- Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones. Some stress increases the chance of illness. Lower stress hormones may protect against illness.
…and here are my top tips for keeping your motivation levels high.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
With less people at the gym, you might get the chance to try out that amazing class which was always full, or use the machine which always had queues for. If you’re a runner and don’t fancy bundling up to go outside, use the opportunity to try something indoors and move your body in a different way. Sign up for a HIIT cardio class or learn how to weight train. Take advantage of a crisp sunny day and visit your local park for a long walk.
Keep it fresh and you’re less likely to get bored.
EAT THE SEASONS
There are some delicious foods associated with autumn: chilli con carne, Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes, apple crumble, shepherd’s pie and hot cider… not all of them healthy sadly! Make it your challenge to ‘healthify’ one of your favourite comfort foods, then make a big batch of it to last several days and reap the benefits.
Look out for winter vegetables such as cauliflower, kale, Brussel sprouts, butternut squash and artichokes. Chop them all up into bite size chunks, roast in the oven with salt, pepper and olive oil, and serve with meat, fish or eggs for a quick tasty comfort meal.
FIND A PARTNER IN CRIME
We are more likely to adhere to new habits if we have someone to keep us accountable. Whether you find a friend or hire a personal trainer, having someone dependent on you to show up for a workout may be the difference between exercising or skipping it. Studies also show that we also work harder with a partner, so how’s that for a reason to buddy up?