Published Wed, 2010-11-24 11:49; updated 4 years ago.

As soon as the dark nights and cold weather arrives it is very tempting to knock the exercising on the head and curl up on the sofa for the winter. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are plenty of opportunities to maintain some level of fitness during the winter months and to ensure that you don’t pile on the pounds after all the hard work you have done to stay in shape during the summer.

So instead of hibernating for the winter and storing away your exercise equipment, try and keep active.

Ideally, adults should aim to do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity at least five times a week, with children recommended to do an hour each day.

Regular exercise will tend to give you more energy, which will encourage you to get out of your warm bed on those cold, dark mornings.

Exercise also helps to improve your blood circulation and generate heat, so a short period of activity will help you keep warm even when it’s chilly. And your body’s defences will also benefit as regular exercise boosts your immune system, helping to kill off germs and viruses that are around in the winter.
So what exercise can you do in the winter months?

When the weather is sunny outside, it is ideal for jogging, or simply walking. The cold weather means your body burns more calories just to keep warm, but ensure that you wear plenty of warm layers. And if it’s very cold, make sure you wear a hat and scarf as more than 30% of body heat can be lost from your head and neck.

Even activities such as raking up the leaves in the garden are beneficial, as long as they leave you feeling warm and slightly out of breath.

But there are plenty of other activities that you can take up in the winter months, particularly if the weather outside becomes dreadful. These range from indoor sports such as squash, badminton or five-a-side football to dancing, swimming or fitness classes.

Gyms are also great for maintaining fitness in the winter months, whether at a members-only club or your local leisure centre.

But even if the weather outside is so bad that you don’t want to venture beyond the front door, there is still some exercise you can do.

If you haven’t already got one in your collection, you can rent a fitness video and try some exercises at home. Or why not buy youself a second-hand exercise bike.

Just remember that extra precautions are needed when looking to exercise during the winter months.

Cold weather is bad for the circulation and can trigger asthma attacks and chest pains (angina), so people with these conditions should stick to indoor activities.

Your muscles will also be colder, and therefore tighter than in the summer months, so take time to warm up and avoid injury by walking at a brisk pace or gently jogging in order to warm your muscles. And don’t go out if it’s icy underfoot as you risk injury.

It is also worth noting that outdoor activities such as running and cycling create wind chill because they increase air movement past your body. This can mean you experience freezing temperatures even if the air outside is not, so watch out for patches of hard, pale, cold skin as this may indicate you have frostbite.

Just as important is to make sure you stay safe if you exercise after dark. Make sure you keep to well-lit areas and wear bright and reflective clothing.

Ideally, exercise with a jogging buddy, either a friend or someone from your local gym or fitness club, but always tell someone where you’re going.

It is also advisable to avoid listening to music while running outdoors as not being able to hear what’s going on around you can make you vulnerable.


Due for review October 2013