As winter sets in and the temperatures drop, keeping your energy levels high is key to staying active and committed to your fitness goals.
Often, the colder months bring a natural inclination to hibernate and wrap up on the couch with a hot drink in hand, but fear not! At Fitness First, our experts have pulled together their top 10 effective tips that help supercharge their energy and beat the winter blues.
How does the change in weather affect our workout motivation?
During the winter months, some people may find it challenging to maintain this regular workout routine, from colder weather to limited daylight being just some of the reasons.
“Many of us find that in the wetter, colder months, our motivation to exercise is negatively impacted by the weather,” explains Tim Andrews, Head of Fitness Product at Fitness First.
According to the NHS, the winter blues — also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across Northern Europe. SAD can cause low moods, poor sleep, and problems concentrating.
In addition to the mental blocks you experience, as the seasons change, the cold weather can have an increasingly negative effect on our bodies. Tim explains that “our muscles and tendons will tighten up during the colder months, making our joints more likely to feel pain quicker. These aches and pains can put people off working out.”
What are the benefits of working out during the cold weather?
Despite the less-than-inviting weather, working out in colder climates can offer a wide range of benefits for both your mental and physical health.
- Boosts your mood — Exercise triggers the release of endorphins and dopamine, the body's natural mood lifters. This is particularly important during the winter when some people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or a general dip in mood due to reduced daylight. Regular physical activity can help combat these feelings of sadness and depression.
- Enhance immune function — While extreme cold weather can sometimes weaken the immune system, moderate exercise can actually boost it. Regular workouts can help your body defend against illnesses by improving immune function and “flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, reducing the chances of getting a cold, flu or other winter illness”, explains Tim.
- Maintain physical health — Regular exercise helps you maintain or improve your physical fitness, which is important year-round. It can help you control your weight, reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension, and improve overall cardiovascular health.
- Increase energy levels — Exercise can boost your energy levels and combat winter fatigue. Many people feel more invigorated and alert after a good workout, helping combat the sluggishness often associated with colder months.
- Set positive habits — Establishing a workout routine during the winter can set positive habits that carry over into the rest of the rest of the year. Consistency in exercise can lead to long-term health benefits.
It’s important to remember that when you’re working out in the cold weather, you should take the necessary precautions to stay safe and comfortable. Dress appropriately in layers to stay warm, protect any exposed skin and be mindful of changing weather conditions to avoid excess exposure to extreme cold or slippery surfaces.
Ten tips to stay energised and active in cold weather
1. Revitalise your mornings
The key to staying active and energised during cold weather starts with your morning routine. Begin your day with intention and energy-boosting activities to set a positive tone. Here's how you can make the most of your mornings:
- Dynamic stretching — Begin your day with a series of dynamic stretches. These stretches are active movements that increase blood flow, flexibility, and alertness. Dynamic stretches can include leg swings, arm circles, or torso twists. They help warm up your muscles and prepare your body for the day ahead.
- Brief meditation — Incorporating a short meditation session into your morning routine can help calm your mind and reduce stress, which is especially important during the colder months when SAD can affect some people. A short mindfulness meditation, focusing on your breath and clearing your thoughts, can help improve mental clarity and boost your overall mood.
- Brisk morning walk — If you have the opportunity, take a brisk morning walk. Cold weather can sometimes make it challenging to get moving, but this can actually be invigorating. Dress warmly in layers, and as you step outside, the fresh air and natural light exposure can help wake you up and provide a well-needed energy boost. Plus, it's a great way to start your day with physical activity.
Tim explains, “I can’t stress enough the importance of kickstarting your day with a revitalising morning routine, especially during the colder months. Heading out for a morning gym class or going for a brisk walk in cold morning weather might sound daunting, but it's a fantastic way to engage your cardiovascular system and boost your metabolism! Plus, the exposure to natural light helps regulate your circadian rhythm, enhancing your overall energy levels.”
2. Hydration is key
Staying hydrated is often associated with the hot weather, but it’s actually just as vital during the colder months, if not more so.
Even in cold weather, your body needs to regulate its temperature. When you’re bundled up in layers of clothing, you may not notice how much you’re sweating. But your body is still losing fluids through respiration and perspiration. Dehydration can affect your body’s ability to maintain a stable core temperature, making you feel sluggish and fatigued.
Proper hydration is crucial for energy production at the cellular level. Dehydration can lead to a drop in blood volume, making your heart work harder to pump blood and oxygen to your muscles. This extra effort can leave you feeling tired and less motivated to stay active.
Tim explains, “Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day, as it is a visual reminder to drink regularly. Opt for an insulated bottle to keep your water from getting too cold in low temperatures.”
To learn more, read our complete guide to staying hydrated.
3. Illuminate your space
As the days grow shorter and natural sunlight becomes scarce during the winter months, it’s crucial to find ways to combat the gloominess that can affect your mood and energy levels. One way to do this is to illuminate your living and work spaces with bright lights.
According to the National Library of Medicine, exposure to natural or simulated sunlight has been shown to trigger the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that boosts mood and helps regulate sleep patterns. By illuminating your space with proper lighting, you can improve your overall sense of well-being and motivation.
“Natural light plays a crucial role in regulating your circadian rhythm, which, in turn, affects your energy levels,” says Tim. “When your body senses exposure to bright light, it sends signals to increase alertness and energy production. This is particularly important during those cold, dark mornings when you might feel sluggish and all you want to do is stay in bed!”
4. Warm up smartly
Warming up before exercising is essential year-round, but it becomes even more crucial in cold weather. Here's why a smart warm-up is vital and how you can go about it:
- Muscle tension and cold weather — Cold temperatures can cause your muscles and joints to stiffen, making them more susceptible to injury. When you exercise without a proper warm-up, you're asking your body to perform strenuous activities with muscles that are not adequately prepared. This increases the risk of strains, sprains, and other injuries.
- Increasing blood flow — A warm-up involves low-intensity activities that gradually increase your heart rate and blood flow to your muscles. This process helps loosen your muscles and increase their flexibility, making them more responsive to the demands of your workout.
- Improving performance — A well-structured warm-up helps prepare your body for a good workout. It enhances the neuromuscular connections, making your movements more efficient and controlled. This means you'll get more out of your workouts and be less likely to experience fatigue prematurely.
5. Fuel with energy-boosting nutrition
Your diet plays a significant role in how your body functions, especially during the cold winter months when energy levels can dip. To stay active and energised, it's important to focus on fueling your body with the right nutrients:
- Complex carbohydrates — Complex carbohydrates are your body's primary source of energy. They provide a steady release of glucose into your bloodstream, which helps maintain energy levels throughout the day. Incorporate foods like whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa), starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, squash), and legumes (beans, lentils) into your meals.
- Lean proteins — Protein is essential for muscle repair and overall energy. Lean sources of protein, such as poultry, fish, tofu, and legumes, can help you feel full and satisfied. Tim says, “Protein-rich foods also have a thermogenic effect, which means they slightly increase your metabolism, aiding in energy production”.
- Essential fats — Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, are crucial for overall health and can provide long-lasting energy. They help regulate hormones, support brain function, and provide a feeling of satiety, preventing energy crashes between meals.
- Nutrient-packed snacks — Choose nutrient-dense snacks like Greek yoghurt with honey and almonds, carrot sticks with hummus, or a fruit smoothie with a scoop of protein powder between meals. These options can provide quick energy boosts without the sugar crashes associated with empty-calorie snacks.
6. Diversify your workouts
Sticking to the same workout routine can lead to boredom and a plateau in your fitness progress, which can be especially discouraging during the cold months when outdoor activities may be limited.
At Fitness First, we offer a wide variety of classes, from Spin to Yoga, HIIT, Dance and more! Attending a few different classes can help you see which ones really resonate with you, and then you can add them to your weekly routine.
“By diversifying your workouts, you’ll not only stay energised and motivated during the colder months, but you’ll also be continually challenging your body and mind”, explains Tim. “This approach can lead to improved fitness and a greater sense of accomplishment as you won’t be repeating the same workouts over and over.”
7. Embrace the winter outdoors
While it may be tempting to hibernate indoors during the winter, embracing the outdoors can provide a refreshing change to your fitness routine — and improve your energy levels.
Cold weather can stimulate your body to work harder to maintain its core temperature. As a result, you may burn more calories during outdoor winter workouts than indoor ones. This can be particularly advantageous if you want to manage your weight or maintain your fitness level.
8. Power nap for a quick recharge
When the days are shorter and the temperatures drop, fatigue can set in more easily. Incorporating short power naps into your day can provide a quick and effective energy boost without interfering with your nightly sleep.
A power nap, typically lasting between 20 to 30 minutes, can help combat that midday slump and provide an immediate energy boost. During this short nap, your body has enough time to enter light sleep stages, refreshing your mind and improving alertness.
9. Practice mindfulness
Incorporating mindfulness practices into your daily routine can have a profound impact on your energy levels and your mental health, especially during the colder months when stress and fatigue can take a toll.
Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep-breathing exercises, are known for their stress-reducing benefits. The winter season can sometimes bring added stress due to Christmas, weather-related challenges, and less natural light exposure.
Mindfulness can also help sharpen your mental focus and clarity. This can encourage you to stay on track with your fitness goals, make healthier choices in your diet, and stay motivated during your workouts.
10. Prioritise quality sleep
Quality sleep is the foundation of maintaining energy, boosting your overall health, and adopting a positive mindset, especially in cold weather when the temptation to stay in bed may be stronger.
“During sleep, your body undergoes essential processes for physical and mental recovery,” explains Tim. “This includes muscle repair, memory consolidation, and hormone regulation. A lack of quality sleep can lead to increased fatigue, reduced cognitive function, and poor decision-making.”
Adequate levels of sleep can also help conserve and replenish your energy reserves, ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed and motivated for the day ahead. As an adult, you should be aiming for 7 or more hours of sleep per night.
What are the best supplements or vitamins to boost energy?
One in 10 people in the UK are believed to be deficient in vitamin B12 — a nutrient that helps keep the body’s blood and nerve cells healthy and aids in making DNA. But are there any vitamins or supplements we could be taking that can help boost energy levels?
- B vitamins — The B-complex vitamins, including B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin), play a crucial role in energy production. They help convert food into energy and support overall metabolism. A B-complex supplement can be beneficial, especially for those with deficiencies.
- Iron — Iron is essential for transporting oxygen throughout the body, and low iron levels can lead to fatigue and decreased energy. Iron supplements may be recommended for individuals with iron-deficiency anaemia.
- Vitamin D — Vitamin D is important for overall health, and its deficiency has been linked to fatigue and low energy levels. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, but supplements may be necessary, especially during the winter months when sun exposure can be limited.
- Magnesium — Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including those related to energy production and muscle function. Some people may benefit from magnesium supplements, but it's essential to consult with a healthcare provider to determine if it's necessary.
Get ready to take on workouts in any season with Fitness First
Winter doesn't have to be a season of low energy and diminished motivation. By integrating our tips into your daily routine, you can elevate your energy levels, stay motivated, and make the most out of the colder months. Let the winter be a season of increased vitality, and enjoy the benefits of staying active and energised.