As days become shorter and temperatures outside start to fall, our motivation also tends to decline. More time is spent cozying up in front of the fireplace and eating comfort foods that can often leave us feeling less energetic and more susceptible to the winter blues.
Here are five tips to help keep you happy, motivated, and active this winter season!
Stay warm as the weather cools down
Our body’s resting temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. As environmental temperatures begin to drop, our bodies naturally respond to help maintain our core temperature. Constricting blood vessels, increasing metabolic rate, and shivering are a few of the biological responses from our bodies to help maintain our internal temperature when it’s cold outside (1). However, we can help keep ourselves cozy and warm by dressing in moisture-wicking, dry layers to help insulate our bodies and by staying active throughout the day.
Scheduling a daily workout can add structure to your day and enhance your wellbeing. Exercise and getting outside can improve mood by helping your body produce more feel-good endorphins (2).
But if you lack enough time in the day to dedicate to one longer workout or are unable to make it to the gym, working out at home and fitting in a few smaller workouts throughout the day helps to keep you moving and goal driven. Keeping yourself accountable by joining a virtual group, trying new activities like skiing or bowling, and finding workout videos on YouTube or in the IsaBody™ app are just a few of the ways you can keep active with limited time and resources.
Go outside and soak up the sun
With colder temperatures and poor weather conditions, going outside in the winter may not seem appealing, but there are many benefits to spending time outdoors. Alongside the benefits of physical activity, studies suggest exposure to sunlight may improve mood, possibly owing to the increased levels of vitamin D (3, 4). Vitamin D is thought to play a role in the activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin and may interact with our circadian rhythm, which are both important for general health and wellbeing (2).
Focus on nutrition
Holiday feasts and sugary treats are all too tempting this time of year! An observational study conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative found that diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugar resulted in feelings of depression more often than diets rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables (5).
Although sweets and simple starches may bring quick energy when you feel tired or lethargic, it’s also important to include enough protein, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates in your daily diet (2). These foods and those high in vitamin D like fish, mushrooms, and eggs may help support a balanced mood and energy.
Stay well hydrated
Some studies have shown that people exercising in cold weather do not get as thirsty as when they exercise in warmer weather (6-7). Though the cold may suppress your thirst, it is important to stay hydrated so you can continue performing at your best and avoid dehydration.
Beverage and food intake and metabolic water production are two ways our bodies stay hydrated (3). Generally speaking, healthy adults should drink a minimum of 2 liters of fluids per day, but those who exercise require additional fluids based on the percentage of water weight lost during workouts. Vegetables, fruits, and some dairy products contribute to proper hydration because of their generally high water content and ample amounts of electrolytes and micronutrients.
Wintry weather and shorter days can drain your motivation, making it more challenging to reach your health and fitness goals. With these five tips to help you stay motivated, you might just have your best winter yet!
- Roy BA. Fitness Focus Copy-and-Share: Staying Active Outdoors During the Winter Season. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2012 Nov 1;16(6):3
- Melrose S. Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depress Res Treat. 2015;2015:178564.
- Spedding S. Vitamin D and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis comparing studies with and without biological flaws. Nutrients. 2014 Apr 11;6(4):1501-18.
- Penckofer S, Kouba J, Byrn M, et. al. Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine? Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun;31(6):385-93.
- Gangwisch JE, Hale L, Garcia L, et. al. High glycemic index diet as a risk factor for depression: analyses from the Women’s Health Initiative. Am. J. Clin. Nutr.. 2015 August 105(2):454-463.
- Hessemer V, Langusch D, Brück LK, et. al. Effect of slightly lowered body temperatures on endurance performance in humans. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol. 1984 Dec;57(6):1731-7.
- Malisova O, Bountziouka V, Panagiotakos DΒ, et. al. Evaluation of seasonality on total water intake, water loss and water balance in the general population in Greece. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2013 Jul;26 Suppl 1:90-6.