Winter is nearly upon us!! It is that time of the year where we want to stay inside and snuggle up in the warmth by the fire, eat lots of food and do less activity (human hibernation!). However, bad news, we are not bears and we do not need layers of fat!
In the winter we often lose our motivation to stay active, and we can be taken over by the seasonal blues, overindulgence on food and using excuses like ‘it’s too cold’ to go outside. Winter brings cold weather, illnesses and isolation to many people.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case! Staying active in the winter months can strengthen our immune system (see here), exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the brain and it also keeps off the extra pounds. We just need to be more creative in how we keep active.
Here are our Top Tips for staying active in the winter:
- Layer up. Wear lots of layers to keep warm and dry – you can always remove one if you become too hot. Ideally wear a sports top to allow moisture on the surface of your skin to be absorbed. The outer layer should be wind and water resistant.
- Wear walking boots/snow boots for good grip if you are walking outside
- Try and use the daylight when possible (maybe add in a morning walk). If you are exercising after dark, keep to well-lit areas and wear bright reflective clothing. Ideally go with a friend or let someone know which route you are taking. Avoid listening to music in the dark as this can make you more vulnerable.
- Be careful and check the weather. If it is icy, try an indoor activity instead to avoid injuries.
- Stay hydrated even though you may not feel as thirsty. It is just as important to stay hydrated in the winter.
- Be creative with other ways to exercise – walk at an indoor location e.g. a shopping centre, museums or play indoor crazy golf.
- Use exercise DVD’s or apps inside to keep up your activity levels. Games such as the Wii Fit or Dance Mats are great group activities.
- Go swimming at a local centre or gym. Look for indoor running tracks if it is too icy outside.
- Be active with friends/family members, for example, a group walk, ice skating, bowling or laser quest to keep everyone moving.
- If it is snowing, make the most of building a snowman and sledging. Snow shovelling also counts as a work out!
We also can’t forget the benefits of exercise and staying active on our cholesterol and heart health. Reducing activity levels in the winter months puts extra strain on our bodies. Exercising regularly can reduce your cholesterol by up to 10%. Studies have suggested that exercise can enhance the transport of cholesterol from the bloodstream to the liver, where it will eventually be filtered out of the body. The NHS advises activities ranging from walking and cycling to more vigorous exercise, such as running and energetic dancing. Doing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week can improve your cholesterol level.
Another benefit of regular activity is helping to lower your blood pressure, keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition, as well as maintaining a healthy weight over the winter period.
Just remember to be safe and careful during this season and be mindful of icy and cold conditions.
Mann S, et al. (2014) Differential Effects of Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Cholesterol and the Lipid Profile: Review, Synthesis and Recommendations. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3906547/
Mayo Clinic (2018) Changes to improve cholesterol. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/reduce-cholesterol/art-20045935
NHS (2018) Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-cholesterol/prevention/
NHS (2018) Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/safe-winter-exercise/