As the temperature drops and the mornings are darker, it gets harder to work up enthusiasm to get out of bed and certainly for any kind of exercise. It’s quite natural that your sleep and waking cycles become disrupted as the days get shorter this leading to fatigue. Less sunlight means that your brain produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you sleepy.
So you need to boost your vitality during the winter months, even opening your blinds or curtains as soon as you get up to let more sunlight into your home can help. Try to get outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, even a brief lunchtime walk can be beneficial. Make your work and home environment as light and airy as possible.
We need good night’s sleep and although it’s tempting to go into hibernation mode, you should not snooze for longer as this can make you feel even more sluggish during the day. We don’t need any more sleep in winter than in summer.
Once the sunny days are over and the cold days upon us there’s a temptation to forget the salads and fill up on starchy foods such as pasta, potatoes and bread. You’ll have more energy if you include plenty of fruit and vegetables and try to avoid foods containing lots of sugar – it gives you a rush of energy but one that wears off quickly.
Even though exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing on dark winter evenings, it’s probably the most important thing you can do to make you feel more energetic, get involved in some kind of physical activity every day, exercise in the late afternoon may help to reduce early evening fatigue, and also improve your sleep.
Research has shown that regular exercise strengthens your immune system so it can fight off bacterial and viral infections. When you exercise and get your blood pumping, immune cells circulate through your body more quickly helping them seek and destroy infections, but this boost only lasts for a few hours, so exercise needs to be regular for long-term effects. Your personal trainer can advise you on a programme that will suit your needs along with some nutritional advice to get you through the winter months.
Stress has been shown to make you feel fatigued. If you feel under pressure for any reason, you may find it helpful to do some kind of exercise. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol and also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts.
And whether we like it or not the festive season will soon be with us and we will probably spend a month eating, drinking and generally making merry. We need to get in top shape by then if we’re going to survive it, so start now, jump out of that bed and get exercising.