By Kelly LaCava – Health Educator
In the first week of a new year, it’s only appropriate to think about some small steps you can take towards leading a healthier lifestyle in 2022. Many people start the year with intentions of getting fit, hitting the gym, and following a strict diet, only to fall off track before the end of the month. Staying active in the winter months can be hard, especially living in a state like West Virginia, where many days are cold and dreary, with a minimal amount of daylight. Here are 7 helpful tips to help you stay on track and live a healthier life through winter and the rest of 2022, both physically and mentally:
1) Choose workouts that excite you
There is nothing worse than engaging in a workout or activity you don’t enjoy. Getting the motivation to work out is hard enough as it is, but this only intensifies when we don’t like the activity we’re doing. If you don’t like cardio, try lifting. If running is hard on your knees, try a low impact activity such as swimming. If you don’t like yoga or think it’s boring, try something a bit faster paced like Zumba. If you are a social person and like interaction with your workout, try a group class or sign up for a team sport. Your chosen activity doesn’t matter, as long as you can stay consistent and have fun!
2) Don’t wait to work out – the earlier the better
If you’re anything like me, you realize that the workouts you put off until later in the day actually don’t happen at all. When we wait, it becomes easier to find excuses to put off our workout entirely. Our energy drops as the day continues. Then, we make poor eating choices that leave us feeling lethargic. We don’t have the energy to get moving when we feel weighed down by sugar. Our optimistic outlook towards leading a life of good health feels more like a chore. The couch, electric blanket and sweatpants are calling our name as it’s dark by 5pm again. The earlier we can wake up and exercise, whether before work, at lunch, or first thing after work can make all the difference in long term consistency. After exercise we have more energy, higher serotonin levels, and our bodies and minds both thank us.
3) Don’t get extreme too early – be gentle with yourself!
Just because you had a doughnut at 11am does not mean the whole day is ruined. This is something many people take years to learn and accept, but it is so powerful. Allowing yourself to have sweets and treats is important – excessive restriction oftentimes leads to binge eating and feeling out of control. Eating a nutritious diet and living a healthy lifestyle should be thought of as a long term goal. If you haven’t adopted a workout plan in years, forgive yourself if you skip a session, and just because you made a bad diet choice in the morning doesn’t mean you can’t make healthier choices throughout the rest of the day.
4) Never underestimate fresh air and sunshine- for body and brain
Getting our bodies moving gets our blood moving and oxygenates our skin. A brisk walk on a cold day can do wonders with helping prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Dressing accordingly and using layers for winter make working out in cold temps more enjoyable. Take advantage of the sunny days when they happen, and get some Vitamin D with a hike in the woods.
5) It’s not easy, and it’s not supposed to be
Significant change requires hard work, dedication and grit. Being proactive about our health today is just as important as staying up to date with medical appointments. The pattern we choose to live out in our daily lives will lead to better health and lower chances of chronic disease later in life. Taking control of our health, such as by changing our eating patterns, will be hard! Especially if it’s something we haven’t thought about much in life. Losing weight is hard for most everyone. But just like achieving any goal, it is so rewarding when we get through the hard days and see change. Small steps, consistency and patterns are what lead to success.
6) Focus on holistic lifestyle change
Crash courses in fitness are never a good idea. We should aim for developing healthy lifelong habits, not a short-term diet with drastic calorie restrictions. Allowing ourselves to indulge in small treats and enjoy our food is important to our long term success. Diets with unrealistic expectations that require intense calorie restriction are not sustainable and often lead to failure and feelings of inadequacy.
7) Find support & seek out friendship
It’s easier to get through winter with friends! Host a dinner party. See a movie. Have a game night. Social interaction is incredibly important during winter months when everyone is feeling the seasonal blues. It’s easier to stay positive together, and getting through the hard days is always more doable with a strong support network.
HE YouTube video on Winter exercising