Top Tips to stay healthy and fit moving into winter
It seems like this summer has lasted forever! It’s been a hot, humid, and an amazing summer and it’s almost as if we haven’t even had autumn at all! Shortly, however, it’s that time of year again when the seasons start to change and the temperature starts to drop – winter is coming! Autumn and winter are fantastic seasons but can present some challenges for maintaining good health and fitness. If you’re anything like me, it’s always harder to drag myself away from my warm bed on a cool autumn or winter’s morning to get up and exercise. Cold toes and even colder fingers out running on a cool autumn or winter’s morning are tell-tale signs that the cooler seasons are arriving. Today’s blog explores some of the challenges you may encounter in keeping fit and healthy as the seasons change to cooler and offers some top tips on how to maintain and continue improving your health and wellness moving into winter. Don’t let your health and fitness be defined or determined by the seasons and weather!
Common hurdles to achieving your health and fitness goals in the winter months:
A number of challenges occur as we move into the colder months and if we don’t plan well and stay disciplined, it’s easy to be among the masses of Australians who lose their health and fitness over the winter months. These challenges can include, but are not limited to the following:
- More prone to colds during the change of season and colder months – as the weather becomes cooler, our immune systems have to adapt to the conditions and often a significant challenge of the winter months can be catching colds or the flu. Employing good health strategies is essential in reducing the strain on our immune system and in helping prevent colds and flus.
- Less sunlight – over the winter months, the sun rises later and sets earlier. This often means we need to get up when it’s still dark or exercise after work when the suns already set. The safety of exercise in the dark can be one concern, but also less hours of sunshine can have some further negative effects on our health. Exposure to sunshine has a number of positive effects, most importantly, boosting vitamin D levels and enhancing mood and energy through endorphin release. A lack of sunshine exposure can therefore be a challenge to our health over the winter months.
- Harder to get out of bed to exercise – when your bed is warm and cosy and it’s cold and windy outside, it always takes greater discipline to get out of bed. Mind over matter is certainly and consistently required to get up and get moving in the morning!
- Cooler muscles – Exercising in cooler weather generally means you don’t get as hot and sweaty which is one positive, however, it makes it even more important to warm up and cool down properly before and after exercise. Cold muscles can be more prone to sustain strains if not warmed up properly.
- Often life is in full swing with school terms with kids and work – with the school and work year in full swing, one further challenge in the winter months can simply be time. Life seems to get busy and with the holiday season well and truly over, it’s imperative to prioritise time and energy to invest into our health and fitness over the colder months to prevent sickness and sliding back into poorer health.
Top Tips to living and performing at your physical best over the winter months:
So is it all doom and gloom for our health and fitness over the coming winter? No! If you take the right steps and plan well, the winter months can be some of the most enjoyed and most healthy months you will ever have. Some top tips for maintaining good health and performing at your physical best over the coming months include the following:
- Keep drinking plenty of water – In summer it’s hot so we naturally feel the need to drink more! In winter as it gets colder, often we have a tendency to drink less water and without us even being aware of it end up dehydrated. Dehydration leaves the body in a less than ideal state and increases risk of sickness. So make sure you keep hydrated this winter!
- Make a plan – as the sunlight becomes less and the conditions get colder, if we don’t have a plan in place it’s easy to opt out and fall out of the routine we have adopted with our exercise over summer. So make a plan! Get accountable to someone else and stick to it!
- Set ‘SMART’ goals – goal setting is essential at all times to help maintain motivation, but especially in the colder months. ‘SMART’ goals are goals which are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. Goals help motivate us and keep us focused in our health journey.
- Register for a running event – winter is the perfect time to get running! The cooler conditions means more comfortable running and with the plethora of running events on the Gold Coast and surrounding areas, choose one and go for it! Register early so that way you’re committed and locked in; that way you won’t bail on your running plan when you hit some of the hurdles described earlier. Get running!
- Join a gym – 24 hour gyms provide excellent training environments out of the elements and group classes offer fantastic group fitness interaction and learning. Sunlight won’t stop you from training in the gym and the social interaction can be great motivation to keep exercising and pursuing a healthier you over winter.
- Don’t hit the snooze button! – The snooze button in winter is one of the worst options. The lure of the snooze button may be high, but don’t fall for it! Hitting snooze always leads to more sleep and less exercise. Get out of bed straight away – that way you can get up and going with your morning exercise. Once you’re up and exercising, you’ll feel better than if you slept in!
- Warm up well and cool down well – As mentioned earlier, winter means cooler conditions which means your muscles are more likely to get stiff and tight if they get cold. So make sure you allow 10 mins to warm up and cool down well. The best warm up is a dynamic, activity specific warm up using your major muscles and getting your heart rate up. Cool down shoulder generally involve light stretching and layering back up if it’s cold.
- Eat seasonally – according to nutritionist GP, Dr Cris Beer, our bodies require higher amounts of nutrients at different times of the year. These different nutrients are naturally found present in the foods naturally grown and available in that season. For example, oranges, commonly in season in the winter months, provide the body with the increased vitamin C required to help our immune system fight off winter colds and infections.
Jake’s top exercise and physical activity options for the coming cooler seasons:
- Surfing – offshore winds, clean surf – wear a wetsuit though as it’s about to get cold.
- Running – cool mornings – perfect running conditions. GC marathon and 10km event coming up! Go for it!
- Early morning walks – excellent to do with a friend.
- Gym classes – indoor environment. Away from the elements. Group classes. Good fun.
- Squash, indoor bowls, ten pin bowling – try something different and fun that’s indoors.
Physiotherapists are exercise and rehab experts and if you want to get in shape or maintain your physical health and fitness this winter, speak to your local physiotherapist who can help you develop a specific, individualised physical activity plan to keep you fit and healthy this autumn and winter. Happy exercising and performing at your physical best this winter!
Jacob Taylor (APAM)
- Beer, C. (2015). Healthy Habits: 52 Ways to Better Health. Rockpool Publishing: Summer Hill.
- Beer, B. (2015). You Can Run Pain Free. Michael Hanrahan Publishing: Surrey Hills.
- Better Health Channel (2015). Colds. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/colds
- Dr Decuypere’s Nutrient Charts (2016). Retrieved from http://www.health-alternatives.com/orange-nutrients.html
- Mercola. (2012). Are you making these sunshine mistakes? Retrieved from here
- Your Coach (2016). SMART Goals. Retrieved from here