It might be the time when all you want to do is snuggle up indoors, but it’s actually during winter that getting active is even more important, and not just for your fitness.
Here are 6 reasons you’ll feel better than ever if you keep exercising when the temperature drops.
1. Find the sunshine
There’s a reason it’s called the sunshine vitamin. While there are a limited number of foods that can provide your body with vitamin D, the easiest source is from exposure of bare skin to sunlight. During summer a short exposure of 10-15 minutes is plenty, but in winter sunshine can be harder to come by, especially when you’re huddled indoors. But that’s why it’s even more important to get outside and get moving. So why do you need it? For strong bones, to grow, to absorb calcium and to keep your immune system strong. If that’s not enough, research has also found that this handy vitamin can even help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.
2. Keep warm
Save electricity and an expanding waistline by heating your body up naturally with a workout. The rise in your body temperature has a soothing, calming effect on your body, not unlike a long soak in a warm bath or lying in front of the heater. “Bask in the sunny days,” recommends body+soul Psychologist, Toby Green, “Staying warm is easier than warming up.”
3. Stay healthy
It’s not completely clear why, but research has shown time and again that regular exercise strengthens your immune system so it can fight off bacterial and viral infections. This becomes particularly important in winter when colds and flu rear their ugly heads. When you exercise and get your blood pumping, immune cells circulate through your body more quickly helping them seek and destroy infections. But this boost only lasts for a few hours, so exercise needs to be regular for long-term effects.
4. Beat the winter blues
Whether it’s the usual winter blues or the more serious SAD (seasonal affective disorder) putting a gloom over the colder months. A daily workout releases feel-good, de-stress brain chemicals, gives you a break from the daily grind and helps ease depression. Plus if you combine exercise with the great outdoors you can cheer yourself up even more! A study of US prisoners discovered that those with farmland view from their cells had 24% less cases of sickness than those in cells facing the prison yard. While another study found adults who spent more time in parks generally had lower blood pressure and older people living near greenery had greater longevity. “After at least 10 minutes of exercise, the brain releases “feel-good” chemicals serotonin and dopamine, which can help to reduce anxiety and depression while boosting wellbeing,” explains body+soul Personal Trainer, Kirsty Welsh.
5. Take a deep breath
Being cooped up with nothing but heaters to keep the air moving means fresh air is much harder to come by in winter! Generally, the air outside is healthier then that inside so going for a walk or run outside gives your lungs a chance to detox and breathe deeply without concern for breathing in other people’s bugs.
6. Avoid winter weight gain
Think of winter. Most of us conjured up images of red wine, cheese, hot chocolate, warm soups and a crackling fire. No wonder it’s known as the ‘winter weight gain’. It can be harder to resist unhealthy temptation in the cold and the only way to make up for that is to increase the amount of exercise you’re doing. That glass of wine will cost you 30-minutes of walking. Just 2 cubes of cheese will be another 30-minutes. And the hot chocolate? A full hour of walking is what you need to work that off.