As we’ve previously discussed, our Northeast winters tend to drain our motivation for regular exercise. Cold temperatures and a lack of sun are partly to blame, but if we become more sedentary this time of year, we also place ourselves at risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a type of depression that’s common during the winter months, affecting an estimated 16 million Americans. The good news is that there are documented ways, which work to keep symptoms at bay.
The reality is that exercising can be just as effective in treating SAD as medication is for other mood disorders. Moderate exercise—such as walking or jogging—releases endorphins and serotonin, boosting your overall mood. So although it may be cold, it’s still important to get outside and get as much sun and fresh air as possible. Make it a priority to get your runs in each morning if possible (as it’s dark by the time many of us leave work) and keep the feeling with you throughout the day.
On those days when you can’t get outside, find other ways to get your heart rate up and your neurotransmitters firing. Sitting on the couch, watching Netflix isn’t going to do a lot to boost your mood, and it’s definitely not going to burn any calories. Instead, break up your T.V. time with short, quick exercises. Fitness Artist Kayla Radliff and I recently demonstrated some of these high-intensity workouts on WNYT.
Along with exercise, diet can help you manage the symptoms of SAD. One study showed that people with SAD selectively eat more carbohydrates, particularly sweets but also starch-rich foods. This not only adds extra calories to the diet, but can worsen symptoms for those already feeling the effects of SAD. Serotonin is derived from the amino acid tryptophan so do your best to incorporate foods rich in this chemical throughout the winter months. Lots of lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, nuts and seeds should do the trick.
Keep in mind that SAD shares many symptoms with major depressive disorder (MDD), and diet and exercise are just two suggested treatment options. In more severe cases, medication may be needed, so please consult a physician if needed. If you know someone prone to SAD, encourage them to prioritize exercise and balanced eating. By working together, we can make it through the “winter blues.”
And that includes us. Fitness Artist is always here to help clients reach their fitness and nutrition goals, and will even be expanding its nutrition offerings this January. Stay tuned!
Staying Motivated Through the Cold
It’s common this time of year to suffer from a lack of motivation. School and sports are back in session, work is picking up…we just tend to be busier at this time of year. So, when we do find ourselves with some free time, exercise might not always be the first thing that comes to mind.
Being in shape is as much a mental state of well-being as it is physical. Working out gets our endorphins flowing and lifts our mood. As many of us know, the mental hurdle of taking that first action can often times be the hardest to overcome. We know we should be exercising and we know it will make us feel better, but where do we find the motivation to start?
We can be each other’s greatest source of motivation. You can accept an excuse from yourself that a friend never would. You can easily take a shortcut when no one is watching. Working out with a friend can ensure that you have each other’s backs and hold each other accountable. Working with a personal trainer is even better as they will know exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals and where you should be focusing your attention and effort.
When there’s a foot of snow outside of your door, it can seem easy to come up with an excuse to skip your workout. Instead, try to think of creative ways you can still exercise at home. For example, you can burn around 233 calories for every half hour that you spend shoveling your sidewalk or driveway. You can also try digging up some old workout videos or finding some online. This way, the whole family can get involved too.
With the holiday season just around the corner, it might seem hard to turn away from your favorite holiday treats. A good way to get around this is coming up with different strategies so that you don’t overindulge. A registered dietitian can assist you in crafting the perfect game plan for keeping your diet on track through the holidays. Remember, you don’t have to deprive yourself, just eat smart and stick to a strategy. One may include smaller portions with healthier sides and cutting down on the alcohol, for example.
With your busier schedule, it might seem hard to find time to fit in your workouts. If you plan ahead and come up with a set schedule, getting in your workouts for the week will seem like just another thing to cross off your to-do list. You can try joining a gym that’s on your way home from work or coordinating with a friend who lives nearby to meet up afterwards.