Winter can be challenging for anyone trying to be active. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves through New Year’s Resolutions even though the weather could make it the hardest time of year to start being active. Add to that a shorter amount of daylight hours, cloudy days (and poor air quality in some areas), and having to be indoors due to the cold and you have created the perfect conditions for being SAD.
SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is often called the Winter Blues, a type of depression that occurs based on changes in the seasons.
Beat the Winter Blues
There are many ways to beat the winter blues, but one of the best approaches is to get more exposure to sunlight. You can do this with special lights that mimic the full spectrum lighting similar to what you would get from the sun, or just get outside when possible. Regular physical activity has been shown to decrease depressive symptoms, especially in children and older adults.
Current physical activity recommendations for adults are to accumulate 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. Here are some tips to beat the blahs this winter:
- Soak up the sunshine in the early morning to feel better throughout the day. If you can do that outside, great. If not, find an indoor location where you can enjoy a sunbeam for a bit
- Be active every day. If you are in decent shape, don’t be afraid to go for higher intensity activity for the greatest reward. Physical activity is best when it is a habit, and habits come from regular participation
- Explore your community. Getting in a rut makes your day frustrating even when you aren’t feeling down. Find your nearest park and see what is happening while everyone else is huddling under blankets at home
- Can’t find sunshine? Book a trip to a place where you can find plenty!
Be active, be healthy,
Dr. Brett McIff
Dr. Brett McIff has worked in physical activity promotion for over 20 years in a variety of fields from personal training to policy development. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Utah in Exercise and Sports Science. He continued his graduate work with a Master of Science in Public Health and a Ph.D. in Public Health at Walden University. Brett has served as President of the National Physical Activity Society and as President of the Utah Chapter of the Society of Public Health Educators and served on expert panels with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Academy of Science. He works with committees at the national, state, and local levels to promote environments that encourage regular physical activity.
SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder