Maintaining physical and mental health during the Winter

By Daniel Osias, Personal Trainer
November 2021

Winter is almost here and that means it’s time to stay inside, eat more, and hibernate. Just Kidding! That is the usual mentality we take on when it gets cold outside and start experiencing the winter blues. For some, S.A.D. or Seasonal Affective Disorder can hit us hard. S.A.D is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in winter. Common symptoms include sleeping too much, having little to no energy, and overeating. [i]

Motivation tends to fall off in the winter. Light intensity activity such as walking and housework is shown to decrease during the winter, while time spent sitting and sleeping increases. [ii] There are many reasons we may lose our motivation to exercise during the cold months. One major reason is the shorter days, coupled with low levels of ambient light, reduces exposure to vitamin D.  This causes increased fatigue, disrupted sleep and lower energy levels. The solution is to spend more time outside performing aerobic exercise. It’s that simple! The initial push of motivation will result in a positive feedback loop.

Benefits of Exercising outside during the Winter Months

  • Strong immune system:
    Providing your body with sunshine and blood pumping supports your immune cells to circulate and fight off infections such as the flu! (right in time for Flu Season)
  • Reduction in weight, heart disease, chance of stroke, etc.
    Avoid that winter weight gain!
  • Improves optimism, self-esteem and stress management which lower depression, anxiety and S.A.D.
  • Winter can offer benefits you don’t get in summer. For instance, cold weather may actually improve endurance, says Dr. Adam Tenforde,Assistant Professor of sports medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.  “In colder temperatures your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you sweat less, and expend less energy, all of which means you can exercise more efficiently.”Studies also have shown that exercising in cold weather can transform white fat, specifically belly and thigh fat, into calorie-burning brown fat. So go out for a nice walk, hike, or run! [iii]

Get outside (if you can)

  • Always remember to Dress appropriatelyLayers you can easily take off and put back. It is recommended to wear a thin layer of synthetic material that will draw sweat away from your body. Nothing is worse than getting wet in cold, windy weather.Protect your head, hands, and feet. Blood flow likes to concentrate in your body’s core to keep your organs warm, which will leave the outer limbs vulnerable to the cold.
  • Stay hydratedYou may not get as thirsty as the summer months when exercising outside, but you can still get dehydrated. Remember to drink water before, during and after your workout/walk/run
  • Exercise RecommendationWeekly healthy exercise target of 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity. This can be broken down into smaller portions throughout the week
  • Moderate Intensity = You can still talk during your activity but find it hard to sing
  • Vigorous Intensity = You will not be able to say more than a few words without stopping for a breath.





[ii] exercise less in the Winter. On average, 8 minutes less during the cooler months