With daylight savings now in full swing, we are all at the mercy of the long nights and short days. Staying motivated over this period of the year can be difficult for all of us, especially those who are up early in the morning, working in or taking part in sport.
Swimming is one of the few sports where an early morning is often required for training; this means someone has to open the pool at an ungodly hour to make sure our athletes get the best possible preparation for their competitions.
In the winter months we tend to sleep more, eat more, see people less, leaving our body clocks in a mess and with the inevitable possibility of weight gain.
So here are our five tips for keeping you healthy over the winter months.
1. For people who are prone to the winter blues, try light therapy. Exposure to bright light, especially upon waking up, has some major positive effects that can relieve winter depression.
According to Michael Terman, director of the Centre for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Centre
“It keeps the circadian clock in check, preventing it from drifting later than your desired, or workday, sleep period. It’s an energizer that gives a morning boost, whether you’re depressed or just sluggish. And it has direct antidepressant properties, stimulating the same neurotransmitters as antidepressant medications”.
Special types of lights are required; it’s not enough to flick on your bedside lamp. A visit to a therapist who specializes in this treatment is also recommended, although light boxes can be purchased without a prescription. Terman’s website has a questionnaire to help you determine the best time of day to use light therapy, based on how much of a morning or night person you are. If you are prone to depression and are already using light therapy, he suggests skipping your usual dose this Sunday to help your body adjust to the new time schedule, and then resuming afterward at the same hour you used it previously. Even if depression doesn’t have a seasonal pattern, research shows that light therapy can help: it has been found useful for treating bipolar depression, depression during pregnancy and chronic depression. For more information about light therapy click here.
2. Whilst it may seem fairly obvious eating a healthy balanced diet is key to combating those winter blues. Not only will a healthy diet boost your mood, it will also give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Experts from the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association also suggest taking extra vitamin D over the winter months. For more information on a balanced diet visit NHS Choices website for some great advice.
3. Why not try a new activity to get the whole family involved? As a break from the pool use the winter months to discover a new hobby, perhaps go ice skating, or take a bracing winter walk in the country or along the beach. Regular exercise helps to control your weight, boost your immune system and is a great way to break the tension that can build if the family is constantly cooped up inside the house.
4. Don’t forget your friends and family. Having that extra social support during what can be a gloomy few months can be some times exactly what you to lift you out of a winter funk. Something as simple as a phone call or a chat over coffee can brighten your mood.
5. Get creative with your fitness routine. As we know physical exercise is a great way to beat the blues as it releases mood-boosting endorphins and will also leave you looking great, but let’s face it many find their workout routine takes a hit when the cold weather sets in. To stay inspired to exercise through the winter why not see what new classes are happening in your local gym or swimming pool, or trying pushing yourself a little outside of your usual comfort zone.