As the weather gets cooler it’s so easy to skip exercise and stay indoors, believing that it will reduce the risk of catching any colds and winter bugs. But the truth is it is essential to keep up your exercise during winter with increased benefits such as boosting your immune system, maintaining your strength and fitness and getting a dose of vitamin D from the winter sun.
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, artificially 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. In the last few years, we have unfortunately experienced the impact of being forced to avoid these important social connections, much to the detriment of our overall health. 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. Indoor gatherings do unfortunately pose a risk for virus and infection transfer but the risk is much lower when we meet outdoors. So once again 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.