Exercise, vitamin D, diet and sleeeep
Let’s be real, winter is tough.
From October to March, it’s a constant battle between getting out of your warm bed and going about your normal routine, as well as taming that wild appetite for those decadent festive cheese boards.
During this time you may be experiencing an out-of-whack sleeping pattern and an ever-growing winter belly – a totally natural reaction to the colder conditions.
However, it is still so important to keep up healthy practices to ensure that you are looking after yourself properly. After all, this is also the time of year that many of us face weakened immune systems and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a type of winter depression also known as the ‘Winter Blues’.
If you’re finding that you’re getting into a bit of a slump, here are some general tips to help you be kind to your body and mind this winter:
- Get a good amount of sleep
Sleep is what sets you up for the day, week and has a big impact on your future years. It affects your:
- motivation levels
- performance in work and fitness
- emotional intelligence
- pain tolerance
- reaction time… the list really does go on.
Getting a good balance is key. Not enough sleep or too much of it can both have serious implications on your health. It is suggested by health experts that between 8-9 hours is optimal.
Those facing Winter Blues tend to oversleep because of a disturbance to their circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock), caused by the shortened daylight hours. It is doctors’ recommendation that during the winter months you should try and expose yourself to natural light as much as possible (whether that’s by going out for walks or sitting close to windows).
Plus, you should set yourself up for a good night’s rest by putting your phone and other devices down two hours in advance of hitting the hay. The blue light emitted from these devices block melatonin – a hormone that signals when it’s time to wind down for the night.
Get that body of yours moving! Regular exercise boosts your energy levels, which may be a challenge to those who are struggling with low mood, but with more practice comes great results.
Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week. However, something minor like a brisk 5-10 minute walk most days can do wonders.
If being outside in the cold isn’t your thing, get yourself into a gym.
- Have your treats, but eat well
Wintertime is certainly time for carbohydrates. Who can resist the variation of comfort foods – the various amount of bread, mince pies, Yorkshire puds…
It’s not wrong to indulge yourself with this food group but be aware that carbs can impact your mood and since they can be digested quickly, they can lead to overeating and therefore weight gain.
Focus on getting minerals and vitamins into your diet with fresh vegetables and fruit. Especially…
- …Vitamin D!
This ‘sunshine vitamin’ is something you naturally get from the sun and your diet. These foods include:
- oily fish
- egg yolks
- orange juice
- fortified cereals
It may be a little micronutrient, but it does mighty things for your body. It helps with your phosphate and calcium levels, keeping your bones and teeth healthy. Some studies claim that it reduces depression, minimises the risk of the flu, regulates insulin levels, and has an appetite-supressing effect.
Some researchers believe that vitamin D might also reduce the risk of Covid-19.
The NHS advises that people take vitamin D supplements during the darker months (particularly if you do not go outdoors often), if you’re pregnant, and if you’re extremely clinically vulnerable from coronavirus.
Keeping up a social life around Christmas and the New Year while looking after your general health can be a tricky business, but ensuring that you’re prioritising your wellbeing will mean better experiences with your family and friends. You’re simply not you when you’re sleep deprived and unwell!