As the days get colder and the evenings darker, it is going to become increasingly tempting to start comfort eating while curling up on the sofa to help stave off those winter blues. The good news is that with a little effort and self-motivation, it’s actually not too difficult to avoid that somewhat inevitable winter weight gain.
The science behind the winter weight gain
The main reason behind the winter weight gain is the combination of eating more and exercising less, but there are actually a couple of other scientific reasons why we tend to gain weight during this period.
Research into the ‘Metabolic Winter’ published by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health suggests there is a primitive instinct that influences people into stocking up on calories in preparation for the colder season, where food would be obviously be more sparse than during the sunnier months of the year.
Another factor is the lack of sunlight due to the shorter days and longer nights. As described in this New York Times article from 1981, it has been accepted scientific fact for a long time that our bodies react to sunlight in ways that can affect our behaviour. It has been noted that the reduction of available sunlight during winter causes our bodies to produce more of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
This increase of melatonin is likely intended to enable us to sleep more readily and for longer periods of time during the winter. This of course has the effect of making us feel less energetic and thus less inclined to engage in physical activities which burn calories.
How to stay active when it’s cold outside
Knowing in advance that our bodies will be trying extra hard to convince us that the couch is a much better place to be than anything that involves going outside or working up a sweat can help us to plan our winter exercise routines more strategically.
The main activities that usually get abandoned during the winter are running and cycling outdoors. It’s not all about a lack of energy either as the wintry weather can be genuinely prohibitive to such activities if it’s raining, snowing or just bitingly cold. The simple solution for this is to switch to the indoor versions of these exercises. Treadmills and stationary exercise bikes let you run or cycle as far as you like without battling against adverse weather conditions.
It’s also not necessary to invest in the machines yourself, as most gyms will usually have a few of them for use by their members. If you don’t have a membership already, then you don’t need to invest in a year-long membership as most gyms will offer quarterly membership deals which will see you through the winter. It may even work out cheaper to just pay for individual sessions.
It’s also a good idea to start incorporating simple exercises you can do at home. It doesn’t have to be anything too strenuous, but some basic yoga routines or some body weight exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups and squats will do your body the world of good and help keep the weight off during winter.
Help yourself with healthy eating habits
Developing a dietary plan ahead of time will also help ward off the extra weight, and again it doesn’t have to be anything overly restrictive. Making some delicious and nutritious homemade soups and stews are healthy and warming winter dishes.
Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water, and avoid too much regular alcohol intake, as it prevents the body from breaking down the fat in food properly.
This blog post was written by Hadyn Luke, Director of CMS Fitness Courses (CMSFitness). Based in Huddersfield, CMS Fitness Courses offer a diverse range of high-quality personal training and fitness courses in the West Yorkshire region.