Fitness goals often take a back seat as winter sets in. It doesn’t have to be this way.
It is definitely colder, wetter and generally more miserable weather-wise this time of year. This makes getting out and exercising (or just getting out) harder than normal. It also means all of the comfort foods that may have made us put on weight in the first place suddenly look very appealing again!
Maintaining winter fitness is tough.
Some people do not mind exercising outside when it is cold, as they know they will warm up very quickly. However, for some people it is harder (particularly for those who get asthma in cold weather). There are always other options, and you will feel better for them.
1. Ask your trainer to take it inside! If you are near a studio an indoor workout session will ensure you are still getting your training, and it will not be weather dependant (even if it means you have to travel a little further to get to your session)
2. Get a home program. You don’t need a lot of hi-tech equipment (or any equipment at all) to do a workout- ask your trainer to write a program that you can perform at home so that your winter fitness doesn’t drop off.
3. Lunchtime walk- during your lunch break is a good time to get out. It not only gets you away from your desk it gets you some much needed exercise (30 minutes is all it takes) and sunshine (most Australians are low on vitamin D)
4. Avoid the high fat comfort foods – try homemade vegetable soups, pastas with tomato based sauces rather than cream based, or tomato based casseroles (watch how much oil you use in cooking them)
Remember, if you want to look good for summer, now is the time to start- leaving it until the weather gets better is going to be too late and leave you disappointed.
Its a scientifically proven fact of modern living that there is a tendency to gain weight as the days get shorter and colder. In fact, a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that in winter, a person’s weight inceases by half a kilo or so.
And, unfortunately, this additional weight does not necessarily fall off when summer comes around either. Dispiritingly, some studies claim these winter weight gains actually accumulate year on year. Dammit.
Tips to keeping leaner this winter
Stock up on ‘smart’ carbohydrates
This is good advice whatever the weather, but because winter can induce a craving for carbs, plan ahead. According to the experts, a cold weather hankering for carbohydrates happens as a natural reaction to falling levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences mood and is less ‘available’ to the brain during the winter months.
Choose wholegrains wherever possible. These take longer to digest than refined carbohydrates, so you’ll feel fuller for longer. Swap white rice for brown, use wholemeal pasta instead of white, eat dark ‘seedy’ breads and opt for a wholegrain breakfast cereal.
Eat oily fish
A rich source of long-chain omega-3s, essential fatty acids are reported to help regulate the brain’s serotonin levels. But apart from keeping carbohydrate cravings at bay, there’s another reason to keep levels stable — Texan researchers say that by activating certain brain neurons and blocking others, serotonin can also curb your appetite.
For further information on Omega-3 and essential fatty acids, you can read more here.
Dietitian Dr Dianne Volker says the average Australian should consume 500mg of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids a day or 3500mg a week — which means eating three fish meals a week or using supplements to give levels a top up. “But not all fish is created equal,” says Volker, “and the ‘three meal’ recommendation relies on eating oily fish, like sardines, mackerel and salmon.”
A 75g serve of canned pink salmon contains 772mg, 85g of canned sardines in oil contains 1700mg and a 150g fillet of fresh Atlantic salmon contains 824mg
Take advantage of the sun when it shines
Whilst it widely known that Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, it is a lesser known fact that it can also affect weight loss. Some studies have illustrated that as vitamin-D levels drop so does the body’s ability to keep weight in check, even when kilojoules are restricted. It has been estimated that during winter months, approximately half of Australian women have vitamin-D levels that are considered inadequate to prevent osteoporosis.
Keep your levels topped up during winter — in northern parts of the country, you’ll get enough vitamin D from the sun just by going about your day-to-day activities, but in southern States, you may need two to three hours of sunlight spread over a week. And remember that most Australians need sun protection when the UV Index hits three or above.
Don’t ignore food labels when shopping
University of Washington scientists discovered that when people become label readers, so that they understand the nutritional make-up of a product when they first buy it, they’re more likely to keep control of their weight.
What should you look for? Low saturated fat, so that a food has less than 1.5g per 100g serve, rather than low fat overall, is a good place to start.
“Remember that many processed, low-fat foods have a high sugar content to make up for the taste loss that the reduction in fat can create, and are, therefore, still high in kilojoules,” says Sharon Natoli, dietitian and director of Food & Nutrition Australia. “So it’s really important to read your labels.”
Invest in Winter Fitness Equipment
It can a hard to get motivated when it’s cold, wet and dark by late afternoon. So make it easier on yourself by investing exercise equipment that allows to do get a thorough workout without leaving your home.
These days, you can by running machines and exercise bikes that can be connected to screens to give you the illusion of cycling through the hillsides of France, when you are really stuck in your lounge room!
Another option for your winter fitness regime is to get yourself a rowing machine and tone up a range of muscle groups all in one hit. For a detailed breakdown of some of the best rowing machines on the market and which one would suit you best, see our extensive guide.