As winter rolls around, it may feel easiest to enter hibernation for the colder weather. But while months-long inactivity might sound inviting, there are several important reasons to keep your body moving year-round, even when temperatures drop. Here’s why a winter workout regimen is essential—and how to stay motivated in the colder winter months.
Health Benefits of Exercising During Winter
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can happen year-round, but it mostly affects people each winter. The body negatively responds to shorter and gloomier days, which create imbalanced levels of melatonin and serotonin. Since these chemicals help regulate energy levels, mood, and sleep cycles, an imbalance can cause anxiety, depression, and weight gain.
Fortunately, one of the best ways to combat SAD and weight gain during the winter months is to move. Studies show 20 minutes of sunlight exposure can help reduce the onset of SAD, while 20 to 40 minutes of exercise three times per week can alleviate symptoms of depression.
What’s more, exercising outside in the cold itself can double the amount of fat you burn. Cold exercise activates a peptide in muscles called sarcolipin, which can trick muscle cells into using more energy and burning more fat.
How to Prepare for Winter Exercise
If you decide to head outside, it’s essential to prepare your body for cold weather conditions. It’s best to dress in layers to create enough warmth and protection and be able to shed a layer or two if you get too warm while moving.
If temperatures dip below freezing, be sure to cover your extremities. Use gloves and earmuffs to eliminate the risk of frostbite. And remember, you can still get dehydrated in cold temperatures, so keep drinking the recommended four to six cups of water per day.
Winter Exercises to Keep Your Body Moving
Whether you’re heading outdoors or staying inside, there are countless ways you can keep your body moving this winter. Here are some ideas to help you maintain optimal health via winter workout.
If You’re Alone Indoors
With more people working from home and staying indoors, there are now numerous online workout subscription options that offer a variety of in-home classes. Try some multi-purpose practices, like yoga and pilates, that provide both physical and mental benefits.
If You’re with Family
If you’re hosting or visiting, ask your friends and family to tag along and exercise with you to help keep the whole crew healthy. Consider signing up for a local rec center that offers a range of indoor activities such as basketball and swimming. Likewise, use large activity areas such as local malls and parks to help push the family to get on their feet.
If You’re Venturing Outdoors
For some simple cardio, take a jog or strap on some rollerblades to get an energetic, heart-healthy workout. If there’s snow on the ground, take advantage of it with ice skating, sledding, cross-country skiing, or an old-fashioned snowball fight to get your body moving and have a little fun.
Stay active (and healthy) this winter!
Don’t let the winter blues slow down your overall wellness this upcoming cold season. With proper preparation and these easy winter workout ideas, you can keep your mind and body healthy all season long.