We all know fitness is vital for our overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, it can be more challenging than usual to head outdoors for exercise when the temperature’s in single figures – or, worse, below zero. So if your fitness regime slumps in the winter, you’re not alone. But it’s important to find a way to work out, whatever the weather...
3 reasons to keep moving when it’s cold
1. It boosts your mood
Feel down in the winter? Getting active is one of the best steps you can take to fight the cold-weather blues. Reams of research show physical activity can blitz mild to moderate depression, leading to chemical changes in the brain, which help to boost mood. Regular exercise can also lift your self-esteem and give you a sense of control and achievement, which can have a further uplifting effect.1
2. It helps control your weight
Activity’s an important way to stay on top of your weight, by helping to torch extra calories2 – which may be key in winter, when it’s common to crave stodgy comfort foods, and particularly around the all-too-tempting festive season.
3. It reduces your risk of major diseases
Regular exercise has been shown to slash your risk of many serious illnesses, from coronary heart disease and stroke, to bowel and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis.3 Research shows moderate exercise has a role in preventing winter bugs, too – it soothes stress, which can dampen immunity, may help flush bacteria out of your lungs and airways, and causes brief rises in body temperature, which can help your body fight infection.4
So there are some compelling reasons to keep up your exercise regime. Even so, it can be difficult to get out for your morning jog when the pavements are icy, or muster the energy for your yoga class on a dark, cold evening when all you want to do is climb into bed with a hot water bottle. Here are some ideas that may help...
Make the most of the crisp bright days
OK, you may not feel like going out when it’s damp and overcast – but a brisk walk, run or cycle on one of those sparkling winter mornings can be a real joy. Wrap up in layers you can peel off if you get warm once you’re moving.
Having an exercise buddy is a great way to stick to your plans. You might be able to talk yourself out of a workout when it’s just you – but if a friend is relying on you to join them for a burst of activity, it’s hard to let them down. So club together with someone else who finds exercise a struggle – or think about joining a walking or running club, or a sports team.
Warm up with a winter toddy
Give yourself a toasty pre-exercise glow with a hot drink, such as Mānuka Honey with lemon, cinnamon and ginger. Mānuka Honey has anti-inflammatory, infection-fighting properties, and may help your body defend itself against viruses, according to research.5 Exercising in the evening? Thaw out and reward yourself when you get home by having a traditional hot toddy. If you like a tipple, the good news is that moderate amounts of alcohol have been shown in studies to have a beneficial effect on the immune system.6 Try one part whisky and one part Mānuka Honey to three parts warm water, along with three dried cloves and freshly squeezed lemon, to taste. The promise of a delicious toddy should make the idea of a chilly workout more bearable...
Get fit indoors
If you really can’t bear going outside – even if it’s just to catch the bus to the gym – it’s never been easier to exercise in the comfort of your own home. You could follow a YouTube workout video (try Lesley Fightmaster’s yoga vids, or the ever-popular Body Coach, Joe Wicks). Or incorporate activity into your daily life – fit in some squats while you’re brushing your teeth, or lunges while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. It all counts.
Don’t let coughs get in the wayThere’s no real health reason to avoid exercise if you’re coughing and spluttering – but you may feel less like doing it. Get past that by dealing with the cough so you’re free to swim, dance or do whatever else you enjoy. A 2018 review of studies found over-the-counter cough medicines have no benefit.7 But according to Dr Tessa Lewis, chair of the NICE antimicrobial prescribing guideline group, honey can soothe symptoms effectively.8 So have a spoonful of Mānuka Honey to help tackle a cough.
1 NHS Moodzone. Get active for mental wellbeing. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-benefits-of-exercise/
2 NHS 12 tips to help you lose weight. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/12-tips-to-help-you-lose-weight/
3 NHS Benefits of exercise https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/
4 Medline Plus. Exercise and immunity. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm
5 Khan SU, Anjum SI, Rahman K et al. Honey: Single food stuff comprises many drugs. Saudi J Biol Sci 2018 Feb; 25(2): 320–325
6 Romeo J, Warnberg J, Nova E et al. Moderate alcohol consumption and the immune system: a review. Br J Nutr. 2007 Oct;98 Suppl 1:S111-5
7 Speich B et al. Treatments for subacute cough in primary care: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised clinical trials. Br J Gen Pract 10 September 2018; bjgp18X698885