Has the cold weather made you shun your morning run? The winter months can often make you go into hibernation mode – but you don’t have to postpone your fitness programme ‘til spring so long as you’re prepared with some cold weather exercise routines.
We’ve put together some simple ways to take the chill off your exercise routine during the winter period - and some warmer indoor alternatives that make it a bit more appealing like HIIT, swimming and gym classes.
Why exercise in cold weather?
Working out winter... Brrrr ❄️Whilst it may seem ghastly to get up early in the dark and bitter mornings, moving about in the colder months is beneficial to multiple aspects of your wellbeing – and not just your physical health.
Exercise - whether outside or inside - is great for your mind and body. Getting active helps release the happy hormone serotonin that can ward off the winter blues – also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Studies link increased exercise to better moods for people with depression and SAD. Being outside offers an added benefit, as the different scenery is a welcome change from the stress of work.
Exercise outside for better sleep
Getting outside in natural light for 15 minutes each morning helps to regulate the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Our internal body clock runs on a 24-hour cycle and works best when exposed to a regular pattern of light and darkness. Just a quick and brisk walk in the morning could do the trick!
Winter exercise, specifically outdoors, can help prevent weight gain during a time when it’s extra tempting to pile second helpings on your plate. Research from the University of Maastricht suggests that exercising in the cold burns fat quicker than more comfortable temperatures.
Don’t fancy the winter flu? There’s limited research indicating that moderate exercise can strengthen your immune system, so you’re less vulnerable to coughs and colds.
🤒If you feel awful, rest up and exercise only when you’re feeling better. You shouldn’t exercise with a fever over 38C (100.4F), as this could make you feel worse. Asthmatics should take extra care when working out in winter, as the cold air can aggravate symptoms. Make sure to keep your inhaler handy during your activity.
7 ways to move more in winter
It’s a lot easier to brace the cold outdoors if you warm up inside first. The best warm-up activity depends on what type of workout you’re planning on doing. Generally, try doing low-intensity movements that mimic the exercise you’re about to do. For example, if you’re about to go running, first do some bodyweight lunges, squats and swing your arms – all before you step outside. Static, bend and hold stretches are best performed after your workout.
- Dress warm and DRY
Losing body heat happens quicker when you’re wet. And winter weather spells more than just low temperatures – it might also rain or snow. So make sure your clothing is waterproof, as well as warm.
- Stay safe
When the nights start to draw in, you’ll have to take extra precaution to keep yourself safe in the dark. Wearing bright colours and sticking on reflective strips to your clothing (and bike, if you’re cycling around!) will help you remain noticeable to traffic.
If your workout gear is dark, consider getting a reflective item or head-torch to help you stand out to others. Also, if you’re going on a walk, run or cycle, it’s worth sticking to familiar routes that are well-lit.
- Drink up
It’s quite easy to become dehydrated during cold-weather workouts, as you don’t tend to feel as thirsty compared to when it’s warmer. You’re still losing fluids though sweating and breathing, so make sure to keep a water bottle nearby and take sips frequently.
- Sign up to classes
If you really can’t face the outdoors, winter is a great opportunity to try out some indoor activities you may not have otherwise considered. Leisure centres usually offer low-cost group classes like dance, squash, or yoga. You could also sign up to a gym or swimming pool in your area.
- Get fit at home
If the gym or activity centres aren’t possible for you, setting up your own gym at home can be a cost-effective – and warm! – alternative. You don’t have to invest in expensive exercise equipment – just place yourself in front of your living room TV as you jog on the spot or dance along to your favourite music. If you’re self-conscious, no one even has to see you sweat and you can wear whatever you feel most comfortable in.
- Try HIIT
When you’re short on time and don’t want to be outside in the cold for too long, HIIT – or high intensity interval training – has been shown to be effective at achieving fast results. It’s a fitness craze that’s super convenient too. It can be done anywhere, even at home in the warm! It’s a specific way of exercising, using your favourite type of activity like dancing or swimming. Simply, you have to push your body to its limits in a very short period of time and then rest for longer. Read our article on why HIIT is so effective and learn how to do it at home.
So there you have it – our 7 simple tips to stay fit and well throughout the wintry season. Even if you just pick one or two strategies, you may feel more like moving about even when the temperatures fall below zero. And make a note of how you’re feeling to see if the extra exercise helps brighten your health and mood.
Track your health and fitness
Your wellbeing can take a nosedive in the winter, as you start to go into hibernation mode. But why not do your health a favour and prioritise your wellness this winter? The Evergreen Life app can help you feel more in control of your health and fitness, with questionnaires about aspects of your wellness and insights that help you reach your personalised goals. Take control of your health today.