With the nights drawing in and winter on its way, now is a good time to start planning how you can stay fit and healthy during the cooler months.
Even the most motivated of people can find it difficult to get up and exercise when it’s cold and dark outside – but there are plenty of benefits to getting your heart pumping this winter. Physical activity can improve your mood, prevent winter weight gain (remember, winter is also holiday season!), and boost your immunity to help you avoid getting ill.
So with that said, why not try these 5 tips for staying fit and healthy this winter…
1. Workout at home
If you feel like you can’t face a workout outside, or you don’t fancy the walk/drive to the gym, then consider working out at home instead. Many people do home workouts all year round, simply because they enjoy getting their exercise hit in the comfort of their own home. Not only does it save you time, because you don’t have to drive to the gym or spend time getting layered up to go out, but it can also help you save on gym membership costs.
The best way to get moving if you’re struggling to get motivated, is to commit to 10 minutes of physical activity a day. Like anything in life, if starting a task feels like great effort, then it can help to break it down into small, manageable chunks – and exercise is no different!
The NHS offer a series of 10-minute equipment-free routines that you can do at home, which can be a great starting point for people of all fitness levels.
If these routines become easy or you fancy more of a challenge, then it’s worth looking at some longer or more complex routines online. The NHS also offer exercise videos for beginners on belly dancing techniques(!), aerobics and running 5K distances alongside plenty more – so it’s worth exploring your options until you find something that suits you!
2. Make sure you’re getting enough of the good stuff
To keep your immune system working as efficiently as possible during the wintry season, you’ll need to make sure that you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need. It’s possible to get nearly all of these from your meals, providing that you have a healthy and balanced diet.
Sufficient levels of the following vitamins are often associated with a strong immune system:
- Vitamin B6 – good sources include milk, fish, eggs and bread
- Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, potatoes and broccoli
- Vitamin E – good sources include vegetable oils, nuts and seeds
- Zinc – found in meat, shellfish and dairy
It’s important to remember that although these vitamins are great for giving your immune system that extra boost, there are plenty of others that are just as crucial for good health and wellbeing. If you want to find out more about which other vitamins your body needs,and how to get them into your diet, then you can have a look at the full list on the NHS website here.
3. Lunchtime workouts
In the winter, a lot of people feel that when they get up it’s dark, and when they get home it’s dark, so they don’t really fancy going out again. If this is you, then it’s worth thinking about what exercise you may be able to do on your lunch break at work – when it’s still light and you still have some energy left for the day. You may find it helpful to workout with other people in a class setting with a proper structure. Plenty of gyms run lunchtime classes, so why not see which gyms are nearest to your office?
Alternatively, you could also try going for a brisk walk or a run – you may even have a work colleague who could go along with you, so that you can help keep each other motivated.
It may seem like a faff having to take your gym clothes to work and shower in the middle of the day, but many people say that it gives them a real boost of energy in the afternoon – and just think how great you’ll feel when you get home and close the front door knowing that you don’t have to go out again if you don’t want to!
4. Keep the bugs at bay
Whilst it’s possible to get ill at any time of year, illnesses are far more common in the winter. One of the best ways to protect yourself from getting sick is to practice good hand hygiene as much as possible – especially before eating or when you’ve been in a public place that will have a high concentration of germs because of the large number of people passing through it e.g. public transport or the gym. It can help to carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser around with you for situations where there aren’t handwashing facilities available.
You may also want to consider getting a flu vaccine. Some people are eligible for this for free on the NHS, providing that they are registered with a GP. You may be eligible if you are:
- are over 65 years of age (or will turn 65 by 31 March 2020).
- share a household with someone who has an impaired immune system.
- have lowered immunity due to disease.
- have a certain medical condition such as diabetes, heart or lung disease.
You can find the full eligibility criteria here.
If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria, you can still book an appointment to have a flu vaccine at a Boots pharmacy near you, for £12.99.
5. Layer up and get outside
Whilst working out at home can be a great option for some, for others nothing beats wrapping up warm and getting some fresh air. In the winter – providing you layer up – walking, running and cycling outside are all fantastic ways to keep fit and get the endorphins going.
Research actually suggests that working out in colder conditions can be better for you. Your body has to work harder to regulate your core temperature which means your wintry work workout will have you burning more calories. Exercising outside can also help to strengthen a healthy heart because it has to work harder to pump blood around the body. So next time you’re thinking about skipping your outdoor run, maybe give it a second thought or simply consider going for a shorter distance…those first steps outside are always the hardest!
A final note…
Most of us find it harder to push ourselves to go for a workout or get out of bed in the colder, darker mornings and this is quite normal. However, if you find that you are feeling especially low during the winter season – so much so that you struggling to get on with your daily routine – then it’s possible that there may be something more going on.
Some people suffer from a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter months and experience symptoms similar to those of normal depression, such as a persistently low mood, loss of pleasure in everyday activities and feelings of guilt despair and worthlessness and can range from mildly irritating to very severe. People with SAD tend to start feeling better by the spring when the days become longer and lighter again. If you experience any of the symptoms detailed above – or any others listed here on the NHS website – and you’re finding it difficult to cope, then try speaking to a close friend or family member, or your GP.
You may also find it useful to read how to Stay happy this winter for tips on how to stay positive during the coldest months of the year.
How do you stay fit and healthy during the winter? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Email us at [email protected].