Staying active this winter

Now that the winter is here, it’s tempting to batten down the hatches and curl up by the fire. But too many lazy days will eventually take a toll on your mood and your health, so do try to fit in some regular physical activity over the coming months. 

How much activity do I need to do?

  • Experts recommend that adults take 30 minutes or more of at least moderate-intensity physical activity on five or more days of the week.
  • If you’re trying to lose weight, then you should do at least 60 to 90 minutes, five days a week.
  • Children and young adults are recommended to take at least 60 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical activity each day.

Dr Aileen McGloin has some tips for keeping active this winter:

Why it’s important to stay active over winter

  • Regular exercise will give you more energy, which will help you get out of your warm bed on cold, dark mornings.
  • Exercise helps to improve your blood circulation and generate heat, so a short period of activity will help you keep warm when it’s chilly.
  • Your body’s defences will also benefit. Regular exercise boosts your immune system, killing off nasty germs and viruses that are around in the winter.
  • Exercising improves your mood. So even if you’re feeling down because the days are darker, shorter and wetter, getting active will release happy hormones into your brain. You’ll cheer up and feel more relaxed.
  • Exercise also gives you a sense of purpose, and boosts your self-esteem.
  • You’ll probably be tempted to comfort eat during the colder months. Exercising will help you manage your weight better and tone up your body.
  • You can start off slowly, building up to 30 minutes of activity a day
  • Two 15-minute, or three 10-minute bursts of activity are just as good as one 30-minute burst
  • Over time, increase the amount of activity you do to 60-90 minutes


Top tips for staying active over the winter

If you’re put off by cold, wet days and dark evenings, consider these suggestions:

  • a squash racket and shuttle cockSwim – take up water aerobics, in your local swimming pool
  • Dance – have fun with line-dancing, irish dancing, salsa
  • Try other indoor sports like squash or badminton 
  • Throw yourself into the house work, do it faster for big wins all round 
  • Create a home gym – dumbbells (cans of beans will do), an exercise ball and a skipping rope
  • Move the sofa and make space in your living room and set up a circuit consisting of different stages e.g. sit ups, press-ups, tricep dips, squats, burgees, skipping, high knees, jumping jacks, lunges, oblique crunches.
  • Divide your workout into 5-minute sessions with a different focus
  • Run up and down your stairs a few times – this is a great 5-minute session!
  • Get your friends involved and make fitness fun 
  • Or make the gym your getaway for some ‘you’ time
  • Buy a pedometer and increase your number of steps every day – compete with your friends
  • Load up your music player with some energetic beats and take a lunchtime walk
  • Exercise outside at lunch time with work colleagues e.g. walking
  • Try something new, try a new piece of gym equipment or class, hobby or gym
  • Get a dog! They’ll be quick to let you know when it’s time to get out and about. 
  • Be more energetic about the things you do like vacuuming and shopping
  • When watching your favourite tv show, try working out during the show by jogging on the spot then jogging faster during the advertisements, or do things like sit ups, jumping jacks etc. If you have your own treadmill or stationary bike use that too.
  • Check out the exercise channels
  • Get an exercise DVD – mix it up aerobics, Pilates, yoga etc
  • Or why not wrap up and take a walk anyway. There’s nothing more invigorating than the bracing air on a cold, sunny winter day.

Staying safe

  • If you're exercising after dark, keep to well-lit areas and wear bright and reflective clothing. Ideally, exercise with a friend, but always tell someone where you’re going
  • Warm-up! Its really important to always warm-up, but particularly during the colder months as the body’s temperature is lower, and the colder temperatures can make your muscles tighter, so be sure to take the time to warm up well and help avoid injury.
  • Wrap up well! Layers are great for keeping warm during outdoor exercise.  Not only are layers the most effective way to stay toasty, they also allow you to remove the top layer if you get too warm. 
  • Drink up. It’s just as important to stay hydrated when exercising in winter as it is in summer, even though you might not feel as thirsty, keep drinking your water
  • Be seen. It’s best to exercise outdoors during daylight, however, if you do need to exercise outdoors when it is dark, wear reflective materials to ensure that you can be seen.