Fewer daylight hours and chilly temperatures means it can be all to easy to fall into a pattern of lounging on the sofa eating comfort food while our workout clothes edge deeper into the wardrobe! However, no matter what time of the year, exercise and activity is important for everyone.
There are many benefits to staying active throughout the autumn and winter months. Regular exercise will make you feel more energetic, meaning it should make getting out of bed on a cold, dark morning a little easier. Many people will be tempted to eat more during the colder months and regular exercise can help us to manage our weight. There is also some evidence to suggest that staying active can strengthen your immune system, reducing the risks of coughs and colds. Remember cold weather doesn’t cause colds so don’t be afraid to get outside, just make sure you wear suitable clothing!
Regular exercise can also help us beat winter blues and boost out mental wellbeing. Winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across northern Europe. Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk in the middle of the day could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues. There’s also strong evidence that 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, three times a week, is effective against depression; with lighter exercise having a benefit too. Ramblers, a walking charity, offer a range of Winter Walks each year across many parts of the country. Over 300,000 people take part each year! To find your local group visit: http://www.ramblers.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/our-mission.aspx Running is also a fantastic way of getting outdoors and staying active. Tip: Do your warm up indoors so the temperature outside is easier to adjust to. The NHS Couch to 5K plan can help you gradually work up towards running 5K in just 9 weeks. For more information visit: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/get-running-with-couch-to-5k.aspx
It’s important to consider the following when participating in any exercise or activity outdoors:
Stay safe and injury free
- Stick to well-lit areas
- Wear bright reflective clothing
- Be extra cautious if listening to music as you can’t always hear what is going on around you
- Make sure someone knows where you are going and what route you will take
- Try exercise with a friend
- Be cautious of icy conditions and strong winds. This could increase your risk of injury
- Always warm up and cool down before exercise
- Ensure you have suitable clothing and footwear
- People with certain conditions such as asthma, should take extra care when exercising in winter as cold air can trigger symptoms. Speak to your GP for advice and support
- For more information on staying safe when exercising outdoors visit: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/running-in-the-cold.aspx
If you don’t enjoy exercising outdoors during the colder months, it’s still important to stay active. At home workouts are great no matter what season, but in winter, they can be a great alternative to being outside. There are hundreds of different workouts to choose from, including NHS Choices Home Exercise Videos, 10 minute home exercise routines or Gym Free workouts.
There are also a number of free exercise videos that can be accessed via Youtube, such as Zumba, Yoga, Pilates and High Intensity Interval Training workouts (HITT). Try different workouts to find the ones you enjoy. Change4Life 10 minute shake ups are a great way to encourage children to be more active and they incorporate their favourite Disney characters
And most importantly…
Pick an activity you enjoy! Now might be the time to try something new that you can do indoors, such as swimming, Pilates, group cycling or climbing. To find local fitness activities and classes visit: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/Fitness-activities-and-classes/LocationSearch/671