In the winter most people don’t want to go outside, especially to exercise. But when it gets cold and dark it’s even more important to get your body moving. The reason is simple: your psychology follows your physiology. And it turns out that exercise and overall fitness not only improves your health, but can change your mood.
Lots of people get depressed in the winter whereas they might ordinarily be happy throughout the rest of the year. They don’t like to be stuck in the house and it makes them anxious or depressed. So they slump their shoulders down, point their eyes to the ground, and tend to not move a lot. What’s really happening is that we are using our body to protect ourselves from the cold, but our physiology can put our psychology into a state of depression.
But the reverse is also true: getting moving is the first step to beating the winter blues. Pull your shoulders up and back, the way you would during the summer when you’re strutting your stuff on the beach. If you start taking deeper breaths instead of shallow breaths, start walking with a spring in your step and looking up, and get moving on a regular basis, your mood will improve and you’ll start feeling a little snappier.
Then, bring your favorite exercise activities indoors. My goal is always to take a typical day that might be wasted and try to turn it into an opportunity to improve my health.
If you like to walk, go to the shopping mall for a one hour, continuous stroll. At work, instead of taking the elevator or the escalator, take the stairs. If you live in an apartment building, walk the stairs for exercise. That’s what I do whenever I’m at a hotel and can’t find a gym. I’ll go to the basement level, and I’ll walk the stairs all the way to the top. Then, I’ll walk all the way to the bottom, repeating this for the length of time that I want to exercise, which is usually 30 to 45 minutes.
You can also take your family relaxation time and turn it into an exercise activity. It actually creates more bonding with your family than just sitting there vegging out. For example, when my kids were young, I would lay on the floor when we watched TV and at every commercial I would do crunches. My kids would take turns sitting on my chest, and I’d do as many crunches as I could. Then we’d go back to watching the show. When the next commercial came around, the rest of my kids would be begging me for their turn. Now my kids are in their twenty’s and thirties, but I still do this with my grandchildren from time to time, but they are getting too big now.
No matter what you choose to do — even if it’s an hour at the gym or doing your favorite calisthenics at home — staying active this winter is the best prescription for total health.