Of course, exercise routines should be habitual and year-round for the best results. But, with its cold temperatures, gray days and shorter daylight hours, winter sometimes derails our best intentions to exercise, instead leading us to hibernate indoors. While there is nothing wrong with some couch time, it should be in moderation, and not replace regular workouts for days, weeks or months at a time.
So why should you continue exercising when you simply want to sit by the fire with some hot chocolate and a good book? The most obvious reason is to maintain or improve your fitness, which can’t be done in only three seasons of the year. But there are lots more – and you can exercise indoors or benefit from some exhilarating fresh air outside. Check out these top 10 reasons to exercise this winter:
- Banish holiday excess – Who didn’t eat too much during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day? Most of us tend to indulge a bit at this time, which unfortunately can lead to extra pounds. Get back into your routine with consistent workouts than can help shed flab. Schedule sessions in your calendar and stick to them. If you are pressed for time, short, intense workouts are better than nothing! All activity adds up!
- Burn more calories – Bonus! If you exercise outside in the cold, your body actually burns more calories to regulate its core temperature, which makes it worth bundling up for a brisk walk or run. Even better, try snowshoes or cross-country skiing, which is one of the best calorie blasters!
- Beat the winter blues – With limited sunshine, depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) increase during winter and affect millions. But research shows that exercise can help improve your mood by releasing serotonin and dopamine, the “feel-good” endorphins.
- Get more energy – You’ll banish some of the apathy that winter can bring by getting moving regularly, which multiple studies have shown delivers greater energy.
- Sleep better – Studies show that people who get 150 minutes of exercise each week sleep significantly better and are more alert during the day. Who doesn’t need that?
- Boost your immune system – Consistent workouts strengthen your immune system, which is particularly important during cold and flu season. Plus, if you work out outside or exercise at home, you’ll bypass some of the germs at the packed health club.
- Bust cabin fever – Don’t be afraid to get outside when the weather isn’t severely frigid or dangerous. When you’re dressed properly and moving, you warm up quickly, and the fresh air and sunshine (if there is any!) are invigorating. You won’t have to deal with oppressive heat or humidity, either.
- Catch up on your DVR backlog – This is not couch time! If you exercise at home, park your fitness equipment in front of the TV and treat yourself to a session of DVR-ed shows. If you are entertained, you tend to work out even longer, and you’re multi-tasking to boot.
- Enjoy comfort food – Heavy casseroles, pasta dishes, baked goods and more are popular during the cold weather, but tend to be laden with calories. Plus, we can crave carbohydrates at this time of year. All things in moderation, but periodically enjoy some comfort food guilt-free, knowing your steady exercise has helped you earn it.
- Be fit and ready for spring – Although it seems like a long way away, soon you’ll be breaking out shorts, sleeveless shirts and swimsuits. Keeping yourself in shape during winter eliminates body angst when you’re baring more of it in the spring and summer.