Beating the ‘Winter Blues’ with exercise

Exercise can have a positive impact on our mental health. As the weather gets colder and darker, we might find ourselves struggling to find motivation to continue with our workout routine. Just like plenty of animals, we might find ourselves with a desire to spend our time hibernating in the warmth, in front of the TV with snacks. It is during this time that some people experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), also known as the “Winter Blues”. One way to self-manage this is to keep up our exercise routine and look after ourselves. So, this post explores different ways of how we can incorporate exercise into our daily-winter-routine and reasons why this is important.


Adapt your exercise routine: If it is too cold or icy outside, try and find new exciting ways to enjoy being active. Instead of running, you could go for a walk or try Nordic walking which may offer a sense of safety as it uses walking poles. We found a video which explains the basic movement of Nordic walking.


Change times: If usually you go for a run / cycle / walk after work, then this might be difficult to keep up during winter. As the hours of daylight are getting shorter, it may already be dark by the time we get home. So, why not switch it up a bit and go for a gentle jog or walk during your lunch break. Maybe you can find some friends, co-workers or fellow students who may want to join you.


Ditch the outdoors or the gym for your living room: When it is really cold and dark, going outside to get to the gym or complete our workout might be last thing we want to do. So, why not bring the workout into our living room. We previously shared with you 9 easy exercises to do at home. You can read the blog post on this by clicking here.


Shorten your workouts: This might seem somewhat bizarre as we have just mentioned how important it is to still achieve your fit150. But sometimes a shorter, more intense workout can be just as effective. For example, the HIIT workouts which have become increasingly popular over the last few years, combine short intense intervals with low intensity ones. A shorter but just as effective workout will make it easier to fit into the hours of daylight during winter.


Wrap up safe and warm: If you do continue to go outside, think safety first! Are the shoes you usually wear appropriate for winter weather? Will you need to put an extra layer of clothing on to stay warm? Is it safe to be cycling the same path you usually choose? As it is getting dark earlier, make sure you carry lights with you, for example head lights or a flashlight.


Prep: Make sure you are properly warmed up before you go outside for your workout. This will make sure that your body does not cool down too much and reduce the risk of injury.


Take your phone: If you have a phone, make sure it is charged and ready to use. As it gets dark earlier and it is colder, it is important for you to be well prepared in case you need to phone for help. Make sure to run / cycle etc in places where you know people will be there to support you if needed. Many smartphones will also work as a flashlight which would save you having to carry an additional tool.


You can find more tips on how to beat the winter blues on the NHS website.


Exercise increases our levels of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good-hormone”. This can help to decrease the feeling of SAD or the “Winter Blues”.  Similarly, our serotonin levels can decrease during winter due to the lack of sunlight. Lower serotonin levels can leave us feeling fatigued, hungry, and can result in cravings for high carb, high fatty and high sugary foods. Exercise can be useful in balancing our serotonin levels which can help to reduce levels of tiredness and cravings.

In addition to balancing our hormones, exercise can help us feel better in ourselves and improve our self-esteem and body confidence during the winter. It can also help to connect to the community if we join clubs, park runs, groups or any other opportunity for people to come together and engage in physical activity together.


If you would like to share with us how you achieve your 150 minutes of exercise every week during the cold and dark weather, you can do so by using #fit150 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Or you can contact us to write your own post for our fit150 blog.