There are several physiological reasons why many people struggle with weight gain in the winter. First, science suggests that similar to bears, our bodies are preparing for a state of hibernation. This stems from primitive times when winter was known as a time of scarcity, so people upped their food intake for fear of a time when there wouldn’t be any food.
Another physiological reason for winter weight gain is that our bodies start producing the sleep hormone melatonin earlier in the day since the days are shorter. This is bad news for those who are used to getting in their exercise after work or before bed. Moreover, even during the hours of sunlight, it can often be overcast and gloomy, which can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of season-related depression. Lack of sunlight can also lead to less vitamin D, which can cause weight gain.
With all the physiological reasons stacked against us, staying fit in the winter may seem futile. But don’t despair — there’s still hope, especially if you’re trying to figure out your fitness schedule for the New Year.
We’ve rounded up 10 tried-and-tested tips for staying in shape as we wait for the cold to pass and the sun to come out again:
1. Figure out What Your Issue Is
Are you tired (melatonin), depressed (SAD), or just plain cold? Once you figure out what’s behind your lack of motivation, you can address it. If you’re feeling unusually tired, talk to your doctor about which vitamins can help. If you’re feeling depressed, see your doctor asap. There is no reason to suck it up and suffer through it, even if it’s “only” for a few months. And finally, if you’re just cold and don’t feel like moving from your cozy couch or bed, turn up the heat or put on some layers. Moving around is actually the best way to stay warm! The hardest part is making that first move. Once you start, you’ll find that both your body and spirits have warmed up.
2. Don’t Freak Out
More people than you think struggle with weight gain in the winter. But the good news is that once the weather warms up, most revert back to their old eating and fitness routines, and the weight tends to fall off. This means that you don’t need to freak out and take drastic measures. Rather, just focus on healthy, wholesome eating and finding some sort of fitness routine. Come sunshine, you’ll likely be back to your old self.
3. Use Fitness Apps at Home
People who love walking outside or going to the gym might not have the energy for that in the winter. In this case, using a fitness app at home is a great way to find different ways to exercise. Fitness apps often include exercises that can be done at home, and some come with step trackers so you can stay motivated to reach your daily goal. There are plenty of top fitness programs to choose from, just make sure that the one you pick suits your lifestyle and goals.
4. Find a YouTube Workout Video
If you don’t feel like “committing” to a fitness app, there are a ton of workout videos on Youtube that you can choose from. There are two benefits to working out with a Youtube video: You don’t need to leave the house, and it’s free. Plus, there are so many to choose from, you’ll never get bored.
5. Try a Winter Sport
You may not feel like going swimming in the winter, even in an indoor pool, but there are lots of winter sports that offer exercise and straight-up fun. Skiing, sledding, ice skating, and snowboarding are all winter sports that may just be exciting enough to get you out of your house.
6. Sign up for a Weight Loss Plan
Many of us feel tired and lack energy in the winter, which means it can be harder to prepare nutritious meals. In this case, signing up for a diet plan service can be just the antidote. There are a bunch of top weight loss plans that can help you with your weight loss goals. When you get healthy meals delivered to your door, it makes it easy to avoid the big bowls of comfort food like mac and cheese and ice cream (it’s never too cold for ice cream).
7. Replace Comfort Food With Healthier Options
In the same vein, it’s important to identify what your weaknesses are and replace them with healthier alternatives. If you know that every time it rains you run straight for the hot chocolate, try preparing a healthy replacement ahead of time like flavored decaf. Instead of mac and cheese, try spiralized zucchini with cheese. While there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while, these indulgences shouldn’t become a daily habit.
8. Find the Right Time to Exercise
If your body’s early production of melatonin has got you feeling tired, switch your evening exercise routine to the morning. Or, if you hate waking up when it’s still dark, move your morning exercise routine to your lunch break. It might not be easy changing your routine, but it beats the alternative of getting no exercise at all.
9. Get a Workout Buddy
There are few things more motivating than having a partner for your fitness journey. When you have someone to hold you accountable and to cheer you on, you are more likely to stick with whatever fitness regimen you’ve chosen. In the winter, when our energy is low and our beds look more appealing than ever, having a workout buddy can really make a difference.
10. Write It Down
Whether it’s on your own or with a buddy, figure out your winter fitness plan and write it down. You can schedule your workout time as a timeslot in your calendar, set reminders for yourself, or tape a post-it to your fridge. The idea is that once you include working out in your schedule, you will be more likely to actually do it.
Make the Commitment
During the winter, we have every reason in the world to let ourselves go. It’s cold, rainy, gloomy, and even our bodies are telling us to rest, rest, rest. However, because gaining weight in any season can be frustrating, upsetting, or just plain unhealthy, finding a way to stay fit can be worthwhile. Which tip from this list will you commit to try this winter?