16 Jul Eat & Exercise your way to Winter Well-Being
Do you or does someone you know mope around when it’s cloudy and grey, only cheering up when the sun shines? There’s no doubt that the weather affects all of us one way or another. So to beat the winter blues & keep any excess kilo’s at bay, here’s some sure fire ways to eat and exercise your way to wellness this Winter. Ensuring you’ll never feel under the weather again!
Most people gain between 1-2 kg’s during the winter months, despite their best efforts. That’s right, Winter weight gain isn’t just an urban myth; it’s driven by hormones, metabolism and fueled by your mood. What do we do when the temperature drops? We hibernate inside, become less active and therefore our metabolism slows to a crawl. We also tend to swap low-calorie snacks for high-fat treats like crackers, chips and nuts. Less hours of sunlight makes us feel down in the dumps and then to fight these feelings, we fuel up on simple carbs, fats and sugars stimulating the brain to release serotonin “the feel good” chemical, making us feel better.
But, this effect is very short term and leads to a crash in mood shortly after the high – in turn triggering more sugar cravings, mood swings and you guessed it, weight gain. What your body really needs is a sustained, even production and release of serotonin.
- Eating seasonally and keeping your diet high in complex carbs is an easy way to keep your diet in check, plenty of winter crops are low in fat and calories so stock up on squash, onions, oranges, artichokes, kale, Brussels sprouts (yes, they are tasty if cooked correctly!) and cauliflower.
- Making healthy food choices by substituting any cravings for lollies, ice cream, cookies and pies with fruit, vegetables, wholegrain bread without butter, cereals such as millet, oats, and muesli – and eating as much fresh, whole food as possible. This will increase your fiber intake, keep you fuller for longer and control serotonin production.
- Limit yourself to just one alcoholic drink a day, if you must. Alcohol is another winter evil containing a lot of empty calories but also contributing to a slower metabolism.
Boy, can it be tough to stick to your exercise program when winter hits. A shortage of daylight hours, the bitter cold, often wet & grey weather and a strong urge to stay in your nice warm bed can all work against staying focused on your workouts. But, the benefits to maintaining your exercise routine during the winter months far outweigh the discomforts!
Exercise is your best weapon against winter weight gain. Benefits include an increase in your metabolic rate which will help prevent weight gain, a decrease in the bodies stress hormones such as cortisol and an increase in endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel good chemicals, and when they are released through exercise, your mood is boosted naturally. Nice!
Some ways to make your Winter exercise program more enjoyable:
- Dynamic warm ups. Don’t waste time with static stretches but, instead, focus on doing activities to get your body ready for the coming workout. If you’re walking or running, start with a brisk walk and stay at that pace until you start to feel warmer. Gradually increase your pace and give your body extra time to get the blood flowing. (1)
- If you exercise outside, how you dress can make the difference between misery and just generally being uncomfortable. Sports Medicine Guide, Elizabeth Quinn suggests in her article, Dressing for Winter Exercise that you focus on three layers – the base layer with thin fabrics like silk or wool, a mid layer like fleece to keep you insulated and an outer layer like a wind jacket to protect you from the elements. (2)
- Don’t be afraid to break your routine and try something new. Commit to group exercise sessions, indoor or outdoor, for that extra motivation to get out of bed or find a heated indoor pool and swap a run for a swim.
- It’s also a great time to increase or introduce strength training to your program. Increased muscle mass means increased resting metabolic rate and an added bonus, your body will continue to burn calories at an increased rate for at least 16 hours following a strength session.
And finally, don’t forget to reward yourself. Plan rewards for completing all your workouts in one month or managing to keep those winter kilo’s at bay. A weekend trip, a new pair of running shoes, a day at the spa … choose something that makes you smile when you think about it and get moving!!
Sonya Lovell Sonya is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, Experienced Trekker and Mum with an interest in Holistically based nutrition and training.
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(1) How to make Winter exercise easier by Paige Waehner
(2) Cold Weather Exercise Tip – How to Layer Clothing by Elizabeth Quinn