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How to stay motivated to exercise in winter

Posted on 24 February 2023

Mental  |  Physical

When it’s cold and dark the last thing you want to do is head out for exercise; but it’s so important for our physical and mental health to keep active throughout the winter. In the long-term, exercise can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%. And in the short term, physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy.

If you haven’t exercised for a while or have an underlying health condition, you may want to check with your GP first.

Something to aim for

Having a goal can give shape and structure to an exercise routine. Whatever your motivation and fitness level, you can set a personal target like completing the NHS Couch to 5K plan.

If you tend to over-indulge in the run-up to Christmas, having a fitness challenge in the diary for January is one way to prevent yourself overdoing it!

Dress right

Wrap up warm and head out there! Keep extremities warm with hats, gloves and thick socks, and be sure to keep cotton away from your skin, because it will chill you as you sweat.

Wearing thin breathable layers is preferable to bundling up in one heavy coat; it keeps you warmer by trapping warm air between the fabrics, plus it means you can shed layers as you warm up. Visibility is also something worth paying attention to if you are exercising outside in the dark – consider high-vis clothing, reflective flashes and maybe a light.

Switch to indoor workouts

Lots of us got used to exercising indoors during lockdown. YouTube is a fantastic resource for this, with thousands of video workouts to follow along with at home.

Choose from dance, HIIT, yoga, aerobics or strength training, and feel free to try out different channels until you find one you really enjoy. There are plenty of options that don’t require any equipment or space. Best of all, everything from a 3-minute dance routine to a 30-minute full-body workout is available for free.

Exercise with others…

…in line with government guidelines for your area, of course. Having a workout buddy means you can encourage each other when the going gets tough. Also, it’s much harder to cancel a workout if you know you’re letting someone down.

If you have kids, why not get them involved? Running around in the garden or the park, playing catch, riding bikes, dancing, or going for a walk are all fun activities for adults and children. It’s a great way for them to burn off energy, as well as being lots of fun.

Track your progress

Create a chart and tick off exercise sessions once completed. It’s very satisfying to see your progress on paper and will motivate you to reach the next milestone. You can even build in a reward system e.g. completing a 30-minute run earns you a certain amount of time to watch television, read a magazine, or take a nap.

It’s important not to let your fitness drop off over the winter months. Follow our top tips to adapt your exercise programme to colder, shorter days and you’ll be glad that you persevered.

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