If the cold weather and short daylight has been affecting your motivation to get up and get moving, you’re not alone! Regardless of general health and wellbeing, anyone can be affected by symptoms of the winter blues. You may have felt more lethargic recently, found yourself more gloomy than usual, or started socialising with others less.
As for your exercise regime – maybe you’ve skipped a class here and there, slept in a few more times than usual or told yourself you’ll just make up with an online class later…. sound familiar? If you’re guilty as charged, there are many others in the same boat. But as we know, the results of exercise are time-consuming to gain and quick to lose, so it’s vital to keep up consistent physical activity even in the cold and dark months.
In this feature article, we discuss why physical activity is especially important in winter, how it can help lift your mood and tricks to help you beat the winter blues and keep moving.
It’s important to note that a simple case of the winter blues can progress into seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in extreme cases. If you experience or start to feel frequent sleep and eating issues, or sadness which begins to disrupt your normal motivation and functioning, please reach out to a medical professional.
Why is Physical Activity Especially Important in the Colder Months?
Combat flu season! Winter is the prime time for disease and illness to start spreading and after the year we’ve just had, most people understand the importance of immunity and health against bugs and germs. Regular exercise helps build your immune system’s strength (read our article on how exercise boosts your immunity here).
Studies show that exercise promotes blood flow and circulation, allowing your immune cells to travel more efficiently throughout the body to find and destroy infection. For this to become a long-term effect, exercise needs to be a regular occurrence!
Heat is known for having therapeutic and calming properties – think about how it feels to get into a hot shower or lie down in front of a heater! Exercise naturally increases your core body temperature, so you can feel warm even exercising outside in the cold.
A habit commonly experienced during colder months is comfort eating and increased alcohol consumption as people spend more time indoors watching TV or staying on their devices for long periods of time. Whilst these excess calories provide a temporary ‘feel-good’ factor, they can lead to bad eating habits that remain even once the colder months are over. Whilst exercise cannot negate poor nutrition (read our article on this here!) regular exercise can help stabilise your weight.
How Exercise Can Lift Your Mood and Motivation!
We could go on forever about the proven effects of exercise on mood and mental health! Countless studies have depicted the link between physical activity and happiness; it has even been suggested that routine exercise has potential to be as effective in treating anxiety and depression as antidepressant medications. Evidence also shows that the percentage of the population which engages in regular physical activity has lower rates of anxiety than the sedentary population.
Physical activity also triggers the release of ‘happy hormones’ such as dopamine and serotonin, which you have probably experienced as a thrill or surge of happiness after a workout. These hormones elevate mood whilst reducing feelings of anxiety or depression, primary symptoms of the winter blues.
Exercise can also help increase your energy levels and provided a needed distraction from worries or negative thoughts. Working to challenge yourself and achieve your physical activity goals can also help you feel more in control and improve self-esteem!
Other Tricks to Beat the Winter Blues!
Aside from regular physical activity, you can beat the winter blues with these handy tips and tricks:
- Keep a consistent sleep routine – this means waking up and sleeping at the same times each night, trying to avoid electronic devices prior to sleep.
- Get sunlight when you can! Sun exposure not only increases your melatonin and vitamin D levels, it helps your serotonin activity and balances your circadian cycle (sleep cycle).
- Socialise! Humans are social creatures – interacting with other people helps increase happiness and reduce social isolation tendencies. Kill 2 bones with 1 stone by attending group classes where you can get your physical activity done whilst socialising!
- Meditation or relaxation techniques – basic meditation or relaxation techniques for even just 30 minutes a day can help reduce stress and anxiety levels
So, as we enter the cold and windy months of short daylight and hours of darkness, and symptoms of the winter blues begin to hit, exercise and physical activity remain as important as ever.
Need more motivation to beat the winter blues and keep moving? Enquire about the Leap Winter Challenge 2021 where you can gain points by exercising and potentially win amazing prizes!