Fire Up Your Fitness and Beat the Winter Blues
Warm up over the chilly months with healthy habits for your body, mind and soul
Cold weather brings with it a penchant for snuggling up on the couch with a hot drink and a good book or your favourite TV show – leaving the running shoes to gather dust until the sun reappears in spring. However, it turns out that winter may be the best time to step up your health and fitness regime, and here’s why:
- Endorphins – those feel-good hormones released when you work out – are a great way to boost your mood; if you exercise outdoors, you get the added benefit of natural vitamin D from sunshine, which can help to prevent or reduce seasonal depression and low mood.
- Keeping in shape not only gives you confidence boost, it helps your body to stay fighting fit during the cold and flu season. When you get your blood pumping, it helps your immune cells circulate more efficiently so they can target the viruses and bacteria that cause common winter maladies.
- Exercise can help combat the munchies by supressing the hunger hormone, grehlin, which makes us reach for those carb-heavy comfort foods; by improving our mood, exercise also helps to curb boredom binging and downtime grazing.
We’ve rounded up some of our favourite ways to stay fit and healthy through every season.
It’s the classic go-to for fitness: your local gym. The range of equipment offered at a gym makes it versatile and comprehensive, with a suite of options for cardio and strength training focusing on different muscle groups. Even better, most gyms will offer personal training, helping you get the most out of your fitness commitment and making it easier to meet your personal goals. Different gyms will offer different features, so it pays to shop around. As well as basic workout equipment, you may enjoy a venue with a pool and sauna, different group classes, or onsite childcare.
Pilates is a low-impact exercise program that focuses on control, stability and strength. Similarly to yoga, it combines posture with fluid transitions that engage different muscles while maintaining deep, regular breaths. Pilates is suited to people of all fitness levels and abilities; it can help to reduce stress and improve mood by helping you to focus your mind and relax those muscles which are prone to holding tension, such as the shoulders and upper back. This can be especially important over winter when we’re more likely to spend time cooped up inside and sitting down. It’s easy to slip into poor posture habits when we’re focused on work, which increases muscular tension and can lead to headaches and fatigue.
If “slow and gentle” aren’t your speed, you may find boxing more your style. This high energy, high impact sport will have you working up a sweat in no time, bringing with it a raft of mental and physical health benefits. Boxing provides a fantastic cardiovascular workout, strengthening heart and lungs and improving circulation; it also builds strength, particularly in the upper body and arms, but also in the core and legs, as you swing and duck through the movements. The rush of feel-good hormones will leave you feeling great post-workout, and expending any pent-up energy from a sedentary lifestyle or stressful job will make it easier to relax and unwind afterward.
While most people think of “diet” in connection with weight loss, there’s actually far more to what we eat than a simple ‘calories in, calories out’ equation. Balanced nutrition, full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, with healthy amounts of carbohydrates, protein, fat and fibre, can make a huge difference to your overall health and wellbeing. A healthy diet, in tandem with regular exercise, can help avoid or minimise common diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
While it’s easy enough to talk about a balanced diet, working out what is or isn’t healthy with the dizzying array of food products on the market today can make it tricky to ensure you’re on the right track. This is where it can helpful to call in some help, like one of the many healthy meal delivery services available that take the hard work out of coming up with delicious, balanced meals. You can also ask your GP for a referral to a dietician who can work with you one-on-one to create a tailored meal plan that addresses your specific health needs.
It’s no secret that yoga has been growing exponentially in popularity over the last couple of decades – and with good reason. Just as with Pilates, yoga is low-impact and suitable for everyone from complete beginners to highly experienced yogis; it also centres on control and poise, but with a bigger focus on deep stretches rather than the repetitive, strength-building techniques of Pilates. There is a big focus on creating an inner state of calm as well as relaxing the body, making it the perfect way to unwind and rediscover our centre in the midst of our hectic modern lifestyles.Yogic stretches can help not only increase flexibility, but improve circulation, release muscles that have tightened from long periods of sitting or standing, reduce back pain, and even protect the joints by ensuring that the muscles around the joints are working smoothly and efficiently to guide movement and cushion impact when moving.
Physical health is one part of the picture, but it’s easy to overlook mental health and wellbeing. However, stress, burnout and low mood can all have an impact on your body, often showing up in tight muscles, headaches and migraines, fatigue and trouble sleeping. Wellness clinics offer a range of services such as counselling and psychology sessions and life coaching. The benefits of talking therapies are well-documented; simply bringing your thoughts and worries out into the open can help you to process and clear your mind. Having someone to bounce ideas off and raise concerns with can open up new possibilities and perspectives on issues you’ve been struggling with. Investing in your mental wellbeing is an act of self-care that can reap rewards in many areas of your life, from your own emotional resilience to relationships with family, friends and work colleagues.