Unless you are a fan of winter sports like skiing or snowshoeing, winter is not a favorite time for exercising for most people. Most people would rather curl up by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate than brave the cold and head to the gym or even worse exercise outdoors. Your metabolism slows down during colder days so it’s natural to want to snuggle up with a blanket and fall asleep early. But health fitness experts are hailing the benefits of cold weather workouts. While we may feel justified in avoiding exercise during the cold weather months, we actually miss out on a great opportunity to keep our body healthy year round. Here are eight healthy reasons to exercise this winter.
Exercise can help you fight off the flu
Studies have shown that even moderate regular exercise can strengthen the immune system and limit colds and viruses. Regular exercise actually strengthens the immune system by repeatedly stressing it. Fat cells often can produce substances that cause inflammation which creates a weaker immune system and susceptibility to colds and flu. Even just a 10 minute workout each day can make a huge difference to your immune system. Try a few sit ups or yoga stretches in the morning and a walk around the block on your lunch break to create a new routine this winter.
Exercise prevents Seasonal Affective Disorder
In the winter our bodies produce less proteins responsible for serotonin transport which leads to lowered moods, due to less sunlight and shorter daylight hours, causing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Mental Health America states that four out of five people with Seasonal Affective Disorder are women. Seasonal Affective Disorder can cause a decrease in energy levels, motivation and depression. SAD reaches it’s peak in most people in December, January and February when the least amount of sunlight is available. SAD affects over half a million people every year. Exercising outdoors can allow your body to get much needed sunlight and Vitamin D which can increase your serotonin levels and uplift your mood.
Exercising lets you indulge in comfort food
In the summer, your body naturally craves lighter healthier food. In the winter, your body’s natural desire is for carbohydrates. In addition to providing serotonin, carbohydrates work to provide a natural insulation of fat to keep you warmer in the winter. Eating healthier foods this winter is a great way to curb the carb cravings. If you are exercising every day, you have a less of a risk of packing on the pounds and increasing inflammation in your body so indulging in comfort food every now and then won’t be as impactful to your health this winter.
Exercising in cold weather burns more calories
An easy way to stay in shape over the winter holidays is to exercise outside. Outdoor workouts can actually help you burn more calories. When you get cold, your body starts to automatically shiver which heats up your body as it burns more calories. While people tend to eat more in colder months as a natural tendency to stay warm, exercising will also help keep your body in shape. Any exercise increases endorphins but workouts outside actually allow endorphin production to increase even more since the body has to work harder in the cold weather. These additional endorphins can create even greater states of well being in the winter months.
Exercising gives you more energy
Consistent exercise generates more energy for your body as well as increasing your metabolism. While your body’s natural tendency in winter is to slow down and hibernate, committing to an exercise regime is a great way to maintain productivity in the winter months. A regular workout routine will give you the energy to get up on those cold mornings that you want to stay in bed.
Exercising helps you sleep deeper
Polls from the National Sleep Foundation show that exercise directly affects sleep quality. Exercise also can help you fall asleep faster. And best of all, exercise decreases feelings of sleepiness throughout the day allowing you to be more productive. Start tracking your sleep and exercises patterns for a few weeks to see the relationship between the quality of sleep and your workouts. Once you recognize you are experiencing a deeper sleep, you’ll start to see the benefits through the rest of your waking life. This can help provide an additional incentive to regularly exercising this winter.
Exercising can keep you social
Over the winter months, many people can withdraw or avoid social engagements because of winter weather conditions and even because of the biological urge to slow down and hibernate. Meeting a friend for a snowy hike in nature or participating in a winter sport like skiing or sledding can prevent isolation during the winter months and increase your sense of well being. Consider planning at least one outdoor activity a week with a friend to ensure that you have a reason and incentive to exercise regularly this winter. Here are 10 of the best ways to make exercise social this winter.
Exercising can help you break the habit of making excuses
There are a million and one excuses that we come up with not to exercise, especially during the winter. Every time you try to use an excuse, write it down and commit to never using it again. By the end of the month (maybe even week), you’ll have pages of reasons why you think you can’t exercise. Reward yourself every time you override that excuse and go exercise anyway. Find winter friendly alternative activities and mix up your routine to create pattern interrupts so you don’t get into the rut of recycling excuse after excuse. Breaking the pattern of making excuses for not exercising can have a larger impact on the rest of your life as you become more aware of the excuses that you use in all areas of your life.