Most of us neglect exercising during winter when frigid temperatures force us to stay indoors and snuggle up.
Summer time, with its long sunny days that make us feel much less inhibited, are undoubtedly much more conducive to running, cycling and going to the gym. All manner of illnesses also hold us back from being more active during the cold parts of the year.
But the three winter months (or more, depending on how cold the autumn months are) need and should not go to waste as far as our exercise schedules are concerned. As the temperatures plummet and our bodies need more energy and heat, there are few better ways to stay warm and fit than to just get the old metabolism going.
Winter time is often more depressing due to the dim light, shorter days and lower temperatures. Personal trainer Nicola Glanville says some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder, depression or anxiety during winter time. She adds that extra effort is therefore required to lift your mood and the endorphins and sweat that accompany gentle exercise is a highly effective way of combating these ailments.
Many of us also indulge in comfort eating by consuming steady amounts of fatty and sugary foods to fight the misery of the cold. Exercise is a most effective way of shedding toxins and maintaining a positive body image.
Exercise can actually improve our immunity against flus and colds. The British National Health Service and Glanville agree that exercise can make you more resistant to such illnesses by improving lymphatic and cardiovascular circulation.
According to Huffington Post contributor Alena Hall winter exercise will also strengthen your heart and leave you more energised.
One general caveat has to be mentioned: Do not exercise when you’re sick.
South Africa’s winter months can sometimes be harsh, but when compared with those in Europe, North America and Asia they really are quite mild and fit for all types of exercise. And if you really have gripes about exercising out in the elements, there are loads of indoor possibilities.
The more intrepid among us would brave the icy winds to walk, jog and cycle. Hiking weekends or excursions are also a lot of fun and nice group and family activities. Beware, though, not to overdo it in the cold when you’re not fit and be sure to dress appropriately. Baby steps and the right warm-up and warm-down routines are also essential.
Maintenance tasks such as mowing the lawn, painting the house, washing the cars and gardening could also double as outdoor exercise. Like exercise, these duties are often also neglected during the winter period and create excess work when spring arrives. It will leave you with less to do later on, saves you money and it doesn’t even require you to exit your yard. It is also more bearable to do these tasks when it’s cool than when it’s scorching hot in summer.
And besides, being out of doors is a lot more enjoyable and less depressing than being inside the house or office all day.
But exercising indoors is probably the preferred activity and it is no less effective. There are boundless opportunities for mild to more intensive exercise routines. Glanville suggests indoor swimming, exercise DVDs in the living rooms, joining a gym (where you can pick and choose anything from swimming to weight exercises to group cardio exercises – to name just a few options), taking up a seasonal sport such as martial arts as well as dance lessons. In South Africa indoor arenas offer sports such as action netball, action soccer and action cricket. You can also buy some exercise equipment such as a treadmill or weights and get going at home.
Runner’s World’s Jennifer van Allen says buddying up improves the efficacy and discipline of winter exercise routines as a gym or jogging partner brings accountability. Also, do it straight after work or maybe even during lunch breaks if the freezing mornings are a bridge too far as this will ensure that you are still “switched on” and don’t get comfortable at home.
Sometimes it will be easy and sometimes it will be mind-over-matter, but it is highly unlikely that you will regret winter exercise and the benefits it brings. So just get started!
Alena Hall, 12 November 2014, “7 Big Benefits of Exercising Outside This Winter”, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/11/working-out-in-cold-weather_n_6276544.html
National Health Service, 22 December 2014, “Exercising in winter”, http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Winterexercise.aspx.
Nicola Glanville, 2015, “Exercise to Beat the Winter Blues”, Weight Loss Resources, http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/exercise/tips/exercise-to-beat-winter-blues.htm.
Jennifer van Allen, 25 April 2013, “Winter Weather Exercise Tips”, Runner’s World, http://www.runnersworld.com/run-nonstop/winter-weather-exercise-tips.