As the cooler weather sets in can become all too easy to skip exercise and confine ourselves to the comfort of the warm indoors. There is also the commonly held belief that shutting ourselves away in winter will reduce the risk of catching any colds and winter bugs.
However, it’s crucial to maintain an active exercise routine throughout the winter season, as it offers a multitude of advantages for your health and wellbeing. By engaging in regular physical activity during this time, not only can you fortify your immune system, but you can also uphold your strength, enhance your overall fitness levels, and even receive a rejuvenating dose of vitamin D courtesy of the winter sun.
In an effort to highlight the myriad benefits of sustaining an exercise regimen during the winter months, Starts at 60 has delved into how the gentle embrace of the winter sun can do wonders for your health and wellbeing.
Regular exercise helps to boost a natural anti-inflammatory response in our bodies and helps to prevent us from catching common viruses and infections. It also helps to manage and prevent diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. So when the weather turns cold it is vital to keep up or increase our exercise levels to help support our immune system function. Exercising for 60 minutes on most days will support your metabolic and immune systems and also support healthy weight levels and positive mental health.
Exercise is a key component of our overall health, helping to keep our cardiovascular and skeletal systems strong. Being active outdoors in winter simply requires some extra planning and some warm layers of clothing. Having a suitable coat, gloves and hat will keep you warm in the coolest of temperatures and still allow you to enjoy the myriad of benefits of outdoor exercise. Staying indoors in a warm environment is tempting, but it can also lead to feelings of lethargy and fatigue, altering your motivation to move and be active.
Maintaining our vitamin D levels are essential for bone health, immune function and mental health with deficiency linked to bone loss, depression, diabetes and heart disease. Whilst we need to ensure that we are getting plenty of vitamin D in our diets from fatty fish, dairy and eggs it is crucial to maintain our exposure to natural sunlight. Winter sun has many health benefits including improved mood, better sleep and lower blood pressure.
Sleep patterns are often disrupted in winter due to many factors such as less exercise, artificial temperature environments, reduced daylight hours and higher consumption of comfort foods. A combination of indoor and outdoor exercise will help moderate these factors and maintain healthy sleep patterns. In winter it’s common to enjoy more time snuggled on the couch watching tv, enjoying the occasional nap. However this can easily lead to disrupted sleep patterns when you struggle to fall asleep at bedtime, so the resulting fatigue leads to another nap the next day and further disruptions to your regular habits. To avoid the pitfalls of this behaviour make sure you keep up your regular exercise, and you may want to consider increasing the amount in winter to combat these issues.
Catching up with family and friends for a winter walk has so many positive benefits. Phone calls, emails and texts are great but they will never take the place of our face-to-face connections with our family and friends. So organise regular catch-ups outdoors for a walk and a chat and multiply the benefits of the interaction.
Even though it is always easier to exercise in summer, we must maintain our commitment to regular exercise in winter. How many times have you reduced your activity in winter and arrived in spring with a few extra kilos and a struggle for motivation? So the key to success is to maintain healthy exercise and nutrition all year round to enjoy high levels of health and happiness.
This article was originally published on May 28, 2022 and has been updated on June 21, 2023.