As the winter season sets in, we often start to feel the need to slow down. The air is crisp, daylight is in short supply, and temperatures can be frosty—all adding up to a desire to hibernate for a little bit.
While there’s nothing wrong with slowing your pace from time to time, the fact is, there are benefits to staying active in the winter.
Now, when we say “active” we aren’t just talking about physical activity. Keeping your brain active is as important as caring for your physical well-being.
Why Winter Activity Matters
There’s no question that being active—both mentally and physically—is important year-round, but in the wintertime, it’s even more critical. The shorter days take their toll and that can impact you on multiple fronts.
It’s estimated that anywhere between four and six percent of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).(1) SAD is a form of depression that is triggered by seasonal changes and is most prevalent in the winter months. The further north you go geographically, the higher your chances are of being affected by SAD.
One of the best ways to minimize the effects of SAD is to keep a normal routine and maintain your existing activity levels. If your normal week includes things like playing a team sport, going out with friends, and working out regularly, your goal should be to find ways to continue these activities or find similar substitutes during the winter months.
Light therapy is also recommended for those with SAD. Now that LEDs have become so affordable, you can find an LED panel sun lamp for very little money. It’s recommended that the sun lamp be at least 10,000 lux to be effective, and you’ll need to spend time in front of it each day, but studies have shown that even just 20 minutes a day can help improve depression symptoms.(2)
Self-care is also considered an activity. It’s super easy in the winter to let some of your usual self-care activities slide. Self-care can be as simple as getting a manicure, going out to see a movie, or even just taking a long walk. Self-care is all about what makes YOU feel good, and as much as you may want to hibernate; when you practice self-care, you feel good, and that benefits both your body and your mind.
One other challenge people often face during the winter months is the seemingly never-ending parade of holidays, many of which involve eating endless amounts of food. Overeating can make you sluggish. When you’re already challenged by the slowdown of winter, that sluggishness can greatly impact your motivation. By choosing to stay active in winter, you can help keep your metabolism up and your body feeling good.
Let’s take a look at some ideas for how you can stay active in the winter — both mentally and physically.
1. Take It Outside
Winter may not be your favorite season, but instead of resisting the cold, what if you embraced it? With the right clothing, spending time outdoors can be really enjoyable during the winter months. The trick is layering your clothes so can you remove layers if needed as you begin to warm up from being active.
For those who live somewhere that gets a significant amount of snow, downhill and cross country skiing, as well as snowshoeing and ice skating are incredible activities. If you aren’t entirely sure of your tolerance for cold weather because you’ve never spent much time outdoors in the winter, start with a simple walk around your neighborhood. You may be surprised at just how invigorating the cold air can be!
2. Invest in Indoor Exercise Equipment
If being outside isn’t really your thing, then investing in some indoor exercise equipment may be just the solution. Depending on your budget, options range from very inexpensive all the way to high ticket items. Standard equipment like treadmills, elliptical machines, and recumbent bikes are good investments for those that will use them regularly, as they tend to last for many years. Looking at local buy and sell sites is also an option for finding larger equipment at a lower price point. Just don’t forget to make sure it’s in full working condition before you purchase.
If you don’t have the space or the budget for large equipment, don’t worry—there are still plenty of options! Items like hand weights, kettlebells, and resistance bands are inexpensive and let you craft your own at-home workout that meets your exact needs and skill level. And thanks to the internet, you can find endless workout videos and programs designed for people working out at home.
3. Get a Gym or Pool Membership
Even if you’re not a regular gym attendee, joining for the winter months is a great excuse to get yourself out of the house. Exercising creates endorphins, dopamine, and adrenaline—all chemicals that help us feel happy. In terms of mood, staying active in the winter can have a huge impact. That’s why going to the gym or pool regularly can be extra helpful for us in the winter. In fact, some gyms may include access to a pool as part of your membership fee.
Another big benefit of attending the gym or pool is the option to join group classes. Not only can you get those endorphins activated, but you can also socialize! Socializing in the winter tends to happen less for many of us, so having a standing date to attend a fitness class is a great excuse for a regular outing. Hit the gym or pool, do your workout, and then kick back with a cup of coffee and catch up.
4. Indulge in Some Solo Time
People who are extroverts get their energy from being around other people. Introverts, on the other hand, need alone time to recharge their batteries. Whatever category you fall into, having solo time can be an enjoyable activity in the winter.
Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you’re sitting around doing nothing. Solo time could be listening to a podcast, cooking yourself a gourmet meal, playing video games, knitting a scarf, or anything that brings you joy. Your goal is to be intentional about how you spend your time alone and focus on an activity specifically for you.
5. Connect With Friends
When the weather is cold, going out can feel like a real chore. But our connections with the people we love and care about need to be nurtured, and being around friends can be a real mood booster.
Want to go out? Organize an activity! Choose a winter activity you can do together, go out for dinner, hit up a local music performance, meet for coffee, or anything else you might enjoy together.
Rather stay in? Set up your favorite board games, order some pizza, and invite the whole crew over for game night!
Even during times when getting together face-to-face is a challenge, technology makes connecting easy. You can set up a video call with a group or one on one. Use that time to just chat and catch up, or do something more interactive like participating in an online escape room or trivia game.
Find Your Ideal Winter Activity
There’s no one right way to stay active in the winter, so whatever works best for you is a-okay. Not everyone loves the cold, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a million options for keeping your brain and your body engaged. Whether you choose to be active inside or outside, with friends or by yourself, all that matters is that you DO something. What that something looks like is up to you, and the only thing limiting you is your own imagination.
John J. Diak, CFP® is the Principal & Client Wealth Manager at Oatley & Diak, LLC in Parker, Colorado. He assists clients through many difficult lifestyle changes such as business downturns, retirement planning, divorce, the death of a spouse, and family estate issues among others. Oatley & Diak, LLC is a family-run registered investment advisory (RIA) firm that provides clients with investment management and financial planning services in a hands-on, intimate environment. Learn more about them at oatleydiak.com.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This material was prepared by Crystal Marketing Solutions, LLC, and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate and is intended merely for educational purposes, not as advice.