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How to Stay Active and Healthy this Winter!

The purpose of the blog is to breakdown exercise myths and jargon, inform readers of a range of beneficial exercises and training tips, and to help motivate readers to engage in physical activity. 

Author: Mr James Cross, PHE Teacher

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Its time of year when the Autumnal and Winter embrace begins to wane and the cold, dark nights creep into the early evening time. As we begin to look ahead to the festive season and the hope that Spring will not be long coming - it is a time when the very thought of exercise, particularly outdoor exercise, is enough to send us scampering under the solace of blankets on that island of ease– the sofa.

And then the guilt begins to set in….

So, lets look at some of the very real reasons to take part in some, any, form of exercise:

Reason 1 – Exercise promotes physical health

Sounds obvious, and that is because it is! Exercise helps to combat health conditions and diseases while helping us to become stronger, fitter, and faster. This is especially important as we tend to turn to those warming comfort foods in the wintery months.

Reason 2 – Exercise boosts your mood

Dopamine and serotonin are two chemicals that have a direct, positive relationship to your mood. Exercise triggers your brain to release these two chemicals which makes you feel happier and calmer, thus reducing stress. Try it! Go for a 5-minute run and see how and if your mood changes from before you started.

Reason 3 – Exercise improves sleep

Sleepfoundation.org (2020) states that ‘exercise can also promote better sleep at night and greater alertness during the day.’ This is not about simply tiring yourself out, it is about raising your body’s internal temperature. You will feel more alert and more focused when your body temp is warmer as opposed to when when you cool down back to your normal temperature range, feelings of drowsiness can occur which forces you fall into slumber. Furthermore, exercising outdoors, in daylight, means that your body is exposed to natural light therefore creating a solid sleep-wake cycle.

Reason 4 – Exercise improves thinking skills and memory

Again, more exercise-brain connection! Exercise leads to increased production of chemicals that positively affect the growth and health of our amazing brains. It has also been observed that those people who engage in regular exercise tend to have larger parts of the brain that are responsible for memory and cognition.

Reason 5 – Exercise can be fun!

The sense of achievement. A chance to learn new skills. The opportunity to challenge oneself, to meet and socialize with others (socially-distanced of course!). These are all right there, waiting for you.

But – you have heard this all before, haven’t you? So, what else is going to help you to step out of your comfort zone? Next time, I will be sharing some tips for motivation and how to make exercise a part of your weekly routine. For now, I leave you this nugget of wisdom that has helped me to don the runners and step out into the drizzle-filled evening more than a few times in my life:

Any exercise is better than none at all!

Here is a suggested workout for those cold winter days. It is a 30-minute HIIT workout that can be done at home.

References
The National Sleep Foundation. (2020, July 28). Physical Activity and Sleep Quality. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-exercise-impacts-sleep-quality

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