Updated: Jun 26, 2019
It’s October, and (after an Indian summer) normal service has resumed, with the nights drawing in and a Scandinavian cold front sweeping across the country.
With winter comes the prospect of cold, dark mornings and evenings, with the only daylight glimpsed out of a window from your desk at work. Understandably, there is a risk that exercise habits take a back seat as work deadlines, Christmas parties, hangovers and winter colds take centre stage.
Yet, all the science points towards exercise being your best bet in getting through the winter months unscathed, and emerging the other side fighting fit.
Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2010, found that those who exercise at least 5 days a week, are almost 50% less likely to develop a cold or succumb to the flu than those who exercise less than one day per week; and, for those that do succumb, the severity and symptomatology tend to be reduced by more than 30%.
If stumbling out of bed in total darkness at 6am to go for a run or hit the gym doesn’t float your boat, why not work up a sweat at lunch instead. A study by Nottingham University of 200 participants found that those who exercised for 30-60 minutes at lunch were 15% more productive. Meaning you get more done in less time. It’s also worth noting that (according to the clever peeps at Harvard) exercise, such as a brisk walk, can boost creativity by up to 60% too. It will also help you hit the weekly recommended guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, which will keep your metabolism ticking over at a higher rate and potentially help off-set the extra calories consumed over the party season.
If you do manage to stumble out of bed and slip on your gym clothes, you’ll be rewarded handsomely, as studies have shown that people who exercise have 20% more energy and feel up to 60% less fatigued than those who don’t. In fact, exercise has been shown to be more powerful than narcolepsy medication! A top tip is to get your gym kit ready the night before – that way you’re less likely to press the snooze button.
If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), exercise is a proven way to keep your hormones in check. Exercise is as effective (if not more effective) for depression than anti-depressant drugs such as Zoloft, so anyone who suffers from SAD would benefit from keeping up their exercise routine during the winter months. Exercise produces lots of feel-good chemicals that help elevate our mood, such as serotonin and cannabinoids (our very own self-synthesised marijuana!).
If you struggle with finding the motivation to exercise over the winter months, there are lots of things you can do to help. We’ve listed a few of our favourites below:
Sign up for an event (such as a 5km or 10km run) in January or February, to give you something to train towards.
Find a training buddy. You’re less likely to bail on your exercise session if you have agreed to train with a friend.
Join a sports club - in addition to the exercise itself you’ll be boosting your community and social wellbeing too. Joining a club can be a fantastic cost-effective way to exercise.
Mix it up. There are plenty of different things you can do to keep exercise fun and engaging, from trying new sports to signing-up to different classes at the gym.
Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session (or two) here and there. The important thing is to not let one or two bad days turn into a couple of weeks or even months of inactivity.
Obviously, if you do get sick, make sure you rest up and recover before starting up again – and that includes staying home, rather than attempting to soldier on at work, infecting your co-workers, who won’t be best pleased, in the process. The cost of presenteeism to businesses in the UK is huge (estimated at more than £15 billion per year). However, we need a mind-set shift to tackle the idea that being at our desks for 10-12 hours a day at 50% productivity is more valuable than 7-8 hours at 80-90% productivity. It's frightening to witness the number of people who struggle into work when they are ill, rather than take one or two days off until they feel better. Imagine taking two days off to recover fully and then spending three days producing an average of 7 hours of work a day vs five cold-ridden and foggy-headed days producing a daily average of 4 hours… we’ll let you do the maths.
I digress... essentially, if you want to be at your best this holiday season (or any other time for that matter), make sure you're getting your daily dose of the sweaty stuff, otherwise known as exercise.