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man and woman snowshoeing

Shake the Winter Blues

Wintertime brings early darkness, cold days, and busy schedules. These new changes can create a variety of feelings, including winter blues.” If you’re feeling blue, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. But, instead of falling into a slump and skipping your workouts, use the winter months as a time to refocus and set new goals for your health.

Exercise is actually a natural way to quickly boost your mood! Research shows there are a number of mental benefits, including:

  • Movement stimulates the brain, which in turn causes brain growth and improves brain health.
  • Regular exercise benefits your overall health, including weight management.
  • Regular exercise decreases risk for diabetes and heart diseases.
Staying Motivated

If you are having a hard time staying motivated or finding time to exercise, try these tips to keep moving and fighting the winter blues feelings:

  1. Avoid using the cold weather or “early darkness” as an excuse to skip your exercise. Try working out early in the morning, over your lunch hour, once the children are in bed or squeeze it in while you’re cooking, brushing your teeth or during TV commercials.
  2. Try new activities. Experimenting with new physical activities can keep your mind interested, as well as keep your body guessing. During the winter months, you can try out snowshoeing, snowboarding or snow skiing. Just be sure to do some research ahead of time if you have never done these fun activities before.
  3. Get a workout buddy! Research shows that working out with a friend helps keep you motivated and accountable. It’s also is a great way to incorporate time to catch up and benefit you socially.
  4. Incorporate exercise into everyday activities. Take an active break during work and take a quick walk, use your lunch break as a time to destress and refocus and hit the gym, play a new game or activity with your children, choose the farthest parking space from the store, or walk to get your mail.
  5. Start or join a social media group. Create a Facebook group and invite friends who would also like to fight the winter blues. You can create a challenge to strive for, or you can use it as a way to keep in touch with each other as you work towards your individual fitness goals. Be creative!
  6. Get plenty of sleep. It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. When we are well rested, we are more likely to feel motivated to be physically active during the day. Regular exercise can also help improve the quality of your sleep as well!
  7. Schedule it in your calendar. Some people live and die by their calendars. If this is you, pencil in exercise into your day just as if you would a meeting. This way, you can schedule your day around your exercise routine and reduce the lack of time barrier that many have with participating in physical activity. Let your calendar keep you accountable.
  8. Do something you enjoy. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, do something you like to do. Physical activity and exercise should be fun even in the winter months.

If you are exercising outdoors, make sure you wear appropriate attire and follow appropriate safety measures. For more information on exercising in cold weather, read How to Stay Active in Cold Weather.

Written collaboratively by Nikki Prosch and Tara Shafrath with SDSU Extension.