The days are getting shorter and we are losing daylight hours at this time of year, but make a plan, now, to keep active this winter as your body and mind will both benefit from it, enormously, in the end.
Getting active does not mean turning into an athlete overnight, it means keeping your body moving, on a daily basis.
As soon as the sun shines, get outside, and keep your vitamin D topped up. Even when it is cold outside, we can still get active, socialize and feel great. If it is too cold, meet some friends somewhere indoors.
Challenge yourself to keep active and keep moving, even when every temptation is to stay tucked up warm indoors.
Exercise generates heat in the body — enough to make us feel much warmer. Exercise outdoors is still possible in the winter and it can be very enjoyable if done safely and with planning.
Layering up is the most effective way to make sure you are warm without wearing something that inhibits you moving freely. Use a synthetic material for your base layer which wicks away the sweat is also a great tip.
Warming up is essential in the colder weather, so factor in some time for a warm up ahead of a run or outdoor activity. Also, unlike in summertime, with shorter days, less daylight and the dusk closing in earlier than usual in the evenings, if you normally exercise in the late afternoon, be sure to invest in some reflective clothing so other pedestrians and moving vehicles can see you in the dark.
In terms of other factors to consider, wind chill will affect the overall temperature, so know the true temperature before you plan any outdoor activity. If the temperature is close to freezing, but the wind speed is over five miles per hour, bring all exercises inside.
If you have medical conditions, such as asthma, heart problems or Raynaud’s disease, always seek advice from your physician first.
Swimming is a great year-round sport. Indoor swimming is good for your health as the water supports your body but the resistance of the water provides gentle cardio which gets your heart rate up, whilst taking the impact stress off your body.
Swimming is good for multiple muscle groups so provides a full body workout. It is also very relaxing for the mind as when you are in the water all of your focus is on staying afloat and reaching the other side so any woes and worries simply drift away.
If you want to give yourself a really good workout, aim to swim for around 30-40 minutes, which allows for total exercise time to be about 30 minutes, once you include rest time. Build up slowly, you will find your body becomes more balanced in the water, the more frequently you swim and a balanced, streamlined body can move faster through the water. Your progress will give you a sense of satisfaction and improve overall general wellbeing.
Swimming is regularly praised for its cardiovascular health benefits, especially for seniors.
Get active around the home
If you have not been active up until this point, take it slow, but set yourself small, achievable goals.
Firstly, instead of sitting inside and watching TV, proactively use colder days to make a list and gradually catch up on jobs around the house. Short bursts of energy are recommended over and above longer tasks which will become tiring.
Remember you do not need to do aerobic activity to work your muscles. Housework, washing the dog and vacuuming are all physical activities which get your body moving, keep your heart rate up and all help keep towards feeling busy and fulfilled. In the long run these small burst of energy will help towards your fitness levels which promotes overall good health.
Even an activity as simple as sorting through old boxes or having a good clear out of a closet, will keep your body moving and your mind focused on the task – which is great for a sense of purpose and a feeling of satisfaction afterwards as well as a gentle body workout.
What we are not reminded of, often enough, is simply living our daily lives and moving our bodies, expends energy and increases muscle strength.
Getting physical doesn’t have to involve a structured sport or class.
Why not get the family together and go for a long walk, fly a kite or throw a ball for your dog?
You would also be surprised how much walking you will do if you organize a family trip to the zoo or a museum. Real life education also has the benefit of sharpening the mind and a day trip will make family memories to share and last a lifetime.
Planning a day out will also add structure to the colder months and give you something to look forward to.
Getting active on days out with great friends or family is a wonderful way to stay active.
Make a pact with yourself to eat even more healthily through the colder months. With shorter, darker days and a reduction in sunshine and vitamin D, we get carbohydrate cravings due to a reduction in serotonin, which then in turn looks to carbs for a boost. Try and resist this process, stay focused on a variety of food stuffs at each meal and when the sun shines, get outside for all of that lovely vitamin D.
Eating fresh and healthy foods will fuel your body with correct, consistent levels of energy needed to give you the enthusiasm for activity. Junk food will give you spikes and troughs in energy and you will become lethargic, which will make it even harder to get motivated.
Eating well also gives us a better chance in fighting off viruses and bacteria. Although we cannot prevent a virus from latching onto us, we can eat the right foods to support and strengthen our immune systems which in turn step up and fend off the virus on our behalf. Eating balanced, healthy meals three times a day is important and scientists recommend that these meals include antioxidant-rich foods such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein in order to stave off infection and illness.