It may be cold (and rainy!) outside but winter needn’t be the unhealthiest time of year for you and those around you.
Here are five ways to make sure that even when your body is telling you to hibernate you can keep healthy and fit, no matter what the weather’s like:
1. Eliminate your sleep debt
“On average we sleep six-and-a-half hours a night, much less than the seven to nine hours recommended,” says Jessica Alexander, spokesperson at the Sleep Council, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep to health and wellbeing. But in winter, we naturally sleep more, due to the longer nights. “It’s perfectly natural to adopt hibernating habits when the weather turns cold,” says Jessica. “Use the time to catch up.”
2. Keep exercising in the winter months
Make exercise a winter priority to make sure you stay fit and healthy as the weather gets colder. Find a winter buddy to exercise with at least once a week, or someone to be accountable to. You can keep each other motivated during this period. Trick yourself by making your goals more achievable by telling yourselves that you are going to exercise for just, say, 15 minutes per session. Most likely, when you get to that stage, you will want to keep going.
3. Eat more fruit and veg
When it’s cold and dark outside it can be tempting to fill up on unhealthy comfort food, but it’s important to ensure that you still keep your diet healthy and include five portions of fruit and veg a day. If you find yourself craving a sugary treat, try a juicy clementine or satsuma instead, or sweet dried fruits such as dates or raisins.
Winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede and turnips can be roasted, mashed or made into soup for a comforting winter meal for the whole family. Explore varieties of fruit and veg that you may not normally eat.
4. Try new activities
Don’t use the cold winter months as an excuse to stay in and lounge around. Instead, why not try out a new activity, maybe ice-skating, taking a bracing winter walk on the beach or exploring your local park in the different seasons. Regular exercise helps to control your weight, boost your immune system and is a good way to break the tension and boredom that can result from being constantly cooped up inside the house.
5. Have a hearty breakfast
Winter is the perfect season for porridge. Eating a warm bowlful on a cold morning isn’t just a delicious way to start your day, it also helps you to boost your intake of starchy foods and fibre, which give you energy and help you to feel fuller for longer, stopping the temptation to snack mid-morning. Oats also contain lots of vital vitamins and minerals. Avoid adding sugar or salt. Instead add a few dried apricots, some raisins, a sliced banana or other fruit for extra flavour and to help you hit the five-a-day target.