We’ve all been told that exercising and staying active in the winter is a great way to stay warm. Exercising has great benefits and can certainly help prevent winter weight gain. Here are a few FAQs to help you stay informed and motivated to keep active this winter:
Why do people gain weight in the winter?
During the cold, winter months we tend to exercise less. Winter weather can makes it difficult for those used to doing their exercise routines outside. When the rain begins to fall, the wind begins to blow and the temperatures drop, it becomes easy to excuse yourself from your daily aerobic routine. You begin working out less; just as your appetite begins to increase from the cold. As you increase your caloric intake, you will be burning fewer calories, leading to weight gain.
What is the average weight gain over the winter?
Average weight gain is typically about 2 kilo (4 pounds). We tend to go for “comfort foods” in cold, dreary weather. These are often energy-dense, high calorie foods, which tend to be sweet or have high fat content.
How can I talk myself into exercising when it’s so cold?
Like anytime we are trying to “find a way out”, remember the great benefits you reap from exercise and good eating, and try to use that as a motivator. If that doesn’t do the trick, remember that sometimes we have no choice when it comes to our health. Remember the following: If we are late for school or work we face the principal or boss. If we let the dishes pile up we will have a big mess and no dishes to use. If we ignore the car problems we won’t get anywhere at all! Many of the things we do daily we are not terribly excited to do but we do them anyway. And usually we feel better after we finish a task or chore—we feel accomplished and we are better able to function. So, yes, it is cold outside or even inside, and you don’t feel like exercising, but for our health, we have no choice.
What kind of aerobic exercises can I do indoors?
Even if you have no exercise equipment, there is plenty you can do in the way of indoors aerobic exercise. If you live or work in a building with a staircase, this could be the basis of an aerobic workout. If you have three or four flights of stairs, try going up the stairs, two at a time if you can, and then walk down slowly for recovery. Do four to six sets. Another alternative is running in place for several minutes. Good old, simple jumping jacks are also aerobic. Or try sitting yourself in the push-up position but alternate right and left to bring your knees up to your chest. As you return one side, bring up the other. This is called the sliding ski stretch. It is desirable to integrate all of these different types of exercises into a 25-30 minute routine.
What else can I add to my aerobic routine?
In addition to the aerobics, couple your aerobic routine with some resistance training. Do abdominal exercises as well as push-ups and bench dips, and use a simple exercise band to work other muscles. It is good to intersperse these exercises within your aerobic routine – something we call circuit training. For instance, you can do 4 sets of staircases, and then do your abs. Then you can run/jog in place for 5 minutes and do your push-ups and dips. Follow this with some jumping jacks and sliding ski stretches, and general stretches after you have finished. This is a quick and easy way to stay in shape no matter what the weather is outside.
I often find that I feel down in the winter time. Am I depressed?
In winter, we can develop a general lower level of happiness. This is basically low-level dissatisfaction—not depression—that we can get when it’s cold and dark. We know that food itself is a comfort as far as mood goes, because it actually impacts the brain the same as drugs do. In addition, we secrete more Melatonin in the winter. Melatonin is the hormone that controls our day-night cycles in our bodies. It is increased in the winter and that has a negative effect on our getup and go. It makes us want to sleep more and be lazy. Also, keep in mind that in the winter, SAD can hit you. That stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is a real disorder and causes mild depression due to the season. Most people suffer from this much more in the winter. Although somewhat counter-intuitive, exercising is a great way to overcome SAD. Even though we don’t feel like exercising, it is exactly what we need. In addition, plan gatherings with family and friends and schedule time doing enjoyable activities. Use natural and true mood enhancers rather than food-based mood enhancement as a quick-fix. The sense of true enjoyment and connection we derive from these activities will last longer and help us avoid the health-eroding effects of junk foods.
Staying in good shape during the winter is another way to “add hours to your day, days to your years, and years to your life.”