As the days grow darker and colder it can be tempting to curl up in bed and hibernate until Spring. Winter often comes hand in hand with reduced exercise as well as increased consumption of high fat, high sugar foods.
It may not seem too big a deal to adopt this kind of lifestyle for a few months but when you think about it, October – January is ¼ of your year. What you do during this time will have a massive impact on your health.
Reduced activity can lead to:
- Weight gain
- Poor energy levels
- Muscle loss
- Reduced strength
- Reduced lung capacity
- Increased susceptibility to poor or low mood
- Reduced immunity leading to increased risk of colds and flus
Another danger is that if you allow yourself to fall into a sedentary trap, it may be hard to get back on the band wagon come January. Hence the usual January panic!
So what can you do to keep your activity in check over the winter months even when you are lacking motivation?
Find your motivation– often we exercise just for weight loss which may not be a priority for you during the winter months. It is important to remember that exercise will provide you with far more benefits than just aiding weight loss. Find another motivation to get you moving such increased energy levels, improved mental health, stress reduction etc.
Find activity that you enjoy– you may not feel like getting out for a run or going to the gym but remember that this is not the only way to achieve your 30 mins a day. Join a dance class, Zumba class, trampoline class, team sport or just dance to your favourite music at home. All physical movement will benefit your health so find something that you enjoy.
Schedule it in– schedules can get hectic in winter with holidays and an increase in social events as well as keeping on top of end of year deadlines which may include longer working hours. Remember that when you are short on time, exercise can be one of the first activities to be dropped. This is why it is important to schedule in your activity just like any other event. Be realistic, when are you most likely to have time to do 20-30 mins of activity? Some people prefer to get up a little bit earlier in the morning, whereas others like to workout at the end of the day for stress relief. Do what suits you best and you will be more likely to succeed.
Break it up– you don’t have to do hours in the gym to get benefits of physical activity. The current guidelines are to get 150 mins of moderate activity per week plus 2 days strengthening. 150 mins works out as 5 x 30 min sessions in the week. You can break this up even further to 3 x 10min workouts or 2 x 15 min workouts in the day. If you are short on time, break it up.
Track your activity– results are best achieved when you are tracking your progress. You can invest in a watch, pedometer or app to track your steps so that you can set yourself a daily goal to reach. There are also plenty of apps which track activity as well as those which are geared to guide you on short bursts of activity such as 7 min workout apps. Most are free so get downloading today.
Every little counts– although you may find your motivation to exercise dwindling just remember that every little counts. You may not be doing as much activity as you used to do or as much as you want to do but start small and keep up the small things such as take the stairs instead of the lift, get off the bus 1 or 2 stops early, cycle or walk to work, go for a walk with a friend instead of calling them or do a 10 minute workout if that is all you can fit in…it all counts.
Exercise is the miracle cure we have all been waiting for but are neglecting to take our recommended dose. From physical fitness, to preventing disease and contributing to good mental health it really is something which we should all be prioritising. So keep active this winter or if you are not active at the moment, get started and beat the January panic!