Cold, wet and rainy days alongside shorter sunlight hours over the winter months can make it difficult to get motivated to get out and get your body moving - even getting in the 30 minutes of recommended movement a day can seem like a far reach. It's a bit of a catch 22, given that exercising in the winter months can also offer a wide range of benefits for the mind and body, helping you to feel great and fueling your motivation to continue to make exercise a regular habit.
Here are six simple ways you can stay motivated to exercise over the cooler months right here in South Burnett - and why your body and mind will thank you for it!
Benefits Of Staying Active In Cooler Weather
First thing's first - why are we emphasising continuing exercising into the winter? Aside from the year-round benefits of movement for the body, exercising in the cooler temperatures over winter offers several additional health benefits:
- Improved endurance - cooler temperatures mean that your heart doesn't need to work as hard to pump the blood around your body, you sweat less, your blood pressure doesn't drop and cause weakness or dizziness, and you use less energy. These all mean that you can put your energy to good use, focusing on your exercise instead
- Added exposure to sunlight and Vitamin D, which is important for your overall health, and may even help ward off seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that some people experience during the winter months
- Increased immunity to colds and viruses, keeping you healthy and well when it counts the most
- Avoiding 'losing your fitness' - it's much harder to rebuild your fitness than to maintain it, with only mild to moderate exercise needed to help maintain your strength and cardiovascular fitness
How To Stay Motivated
With staying motivated to exercise often being the hard part, here are six research-backed things you can try to help you stay active in the cooler weather.
1. Find an exercise partner or group
When you're doing it alone, it can be so easy to forgo exercising for the day if it's rainy, cold - or you simply want to sleep longer. Studies indicate exercising with friends or family members has been found to increase motivation, strengthen social bonds and promote participation. It can also improve your performance on aerobic exercise tasks across multiple sessions. One 12-week study found that those who completed group workouts scored significantly higher in terms of stress-reduction and physical, mental and emotional quality of life. If you're at home, you can still join a live class through your computer so you can still reap some of the benefits.
2. Try a new activity
When it comes to exercise, sometimes we need something different to add that spark and motivation back. Specifically, trying new things can help improve cognitive function, protect against cognitive decline, maintain your ability to develop your cognitive abilities throughout your lifetime, and can even promote creative thinking.
Consider trying a new outdoor activity such as cycling, running, tennis, bowls, golf, or hiking. Alternatively, there are also a range of indoor activities and classes such as yoga, badminton, aerobics, tai chi, and even ballroom dancing. Swimming is one of the best sports to promote heart health, muscle strength and joint flexibility for a long and healthy life, and aqua-aerobics is a similarly beneficial and fun exercise.
3. Create a home gym
An home-based exercise regimen, such as Home-HIT, is shown to reduce a range of barriers to exercise, including time, cost, and access, while increasing adherence in previously inactive individuals. In fact, previous research has demonstrated that under controlled laboratory conditions, you can get the same benefits from three 20-minute home HIIT exercise sessions, as from the Government-recommended 150 minutes, under very specific conditions.
You can use your own bodyweight to get started, or invest in some inexpensive equipment such as stretch bands, light dumbbells, and a yoga mat.
4. Leverage your incidental exercise
Incidental exercise is the small activities you do that build up over the course of a day, such as walking to the bus stop. You can maximise this through intentional strategies like parking further away from work or the library to squeeze in a brisk 10 minute walk, climb the stairs instead of taking the lift, going for a lunchtime stroll, or committing to being the chief dog walker in the household.
5. Add mindfulness to your exercise routine
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we're doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what's going on around us. Being present and mindful during exercise has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression,, and improve sleep. Mindfulness has also been linked to improvements in physical health such as improved cardiovascular health, lower body mass index and blood sugar levels. Mindful fitness can improve breathing, heart rate, and parasympathetic activity..
It's not always easy to stay committed to exercise, particularly when spending large amounts of time at home, so mindfulness can strengthen your resolve to stick to your workout routine, and increases your feelings of satisfaction.
Tips For Protecting Your Body In The Cold
While exercising is important, so is protecting yourself and your body. We recommend that you:
- Wear layers. Dress in exercise clothes that you can easily take off and put back on as needed. How many layers will depend on what you are doing, but in general, you should start with a thin t-shirt, then layer a jumper made of fleece or wool, and top this off with a waterproof, breathable outer layer. Try to avoid wearing cotton, which can absorbs sweat and leave you feeling cool
- Keep your clothes on as you grow warmer. While you may be tempted to start taking off layers as soon as your body temperature rises, you finish your workout, or you go back inside, give your body time to adjust and don't remove all those layers too quickly. Doing so may cause your body temperature to drop too quickly
- Warm up before working out. Stretching can help to loosen your joints, get your blood flowing, and warm up muscles and tissues. More than this, it can also help prevent muscle strains and injuries. Try starting with warm ups such as arm swings and circles, high steps, and lunges
- Apply sunscreen. It may not feel hot, but you can still get sunburnt in winter from the sun's UV rays. Always wear a product that blocks both UVA and UVB types of ultraviolet rays, with at least 30 SPF, and use a lip balm with sunscreen too if you can.
- Stay hydrated. Hydration has a large impact on your sports performance as well as your recovery. Drink water before, during and after an outdoor workout to best support your body
- Wear good, supportive footwear. Make sure the ground where you are exercising has good footing and is clear and safe to navigate. Invest in quality shoes with good traction for support and to help avoid slips and falls.
And If Foot Aches Or Pains Get In The Way Of Your Exercise?
Then our experienced podiatry team based here in South Burnett is here to help. We'll get to the bottom of what has caused your injury and why, and get you back to feeling happy and pain-free on your feet. We also support many of our local community in helping them achieve their fitness goals, so get in touch with one of our friendly clinics today to see how we can best help you.
Book your appointment by calling us on (07) 4162 7633.