Article by Dr Sally Norton
January is traditionally a month when our mood drops. No coincidence that it’s also the month when New Year’s resolutions are made – and broken.
It all starts with that feeling of anti-climax once the excitement of the seasonal festivities has passed. On top of this, we may feel broke, despondent and decidedly unhealthy after our festive blow out. We contemplate the excess pounds we have shifted from our bank accounts – and excess pounds accumulated round our middles from too much rich food and alcohol.
Our bodies may also be wrung out by late night, boozy New Year celebrations – as well as a lack of fresh air and exercise, not helped in recent weeks by the rainy weather.
So the guilt starts to creep in. We plan our New Year diet, fork out for an expensive gym membership (again!), resolve to stop smoking or go booze-free for a month…..but our resolutions rarely last more than a couple of weeks. No wonder we get so fed-up.
Head for the big outdoors
So what can we do instead? One simple (and inexpensive) answer is to throw off the guilt and plans for crash diets and crazy gym schedules that won’t last – and head outdoors for our fitness fix.
Why? It’s thought that exercise, particularly in cold conditions, boosts the conversion of white fat cells into brown, which burn rather than store energy. This helps keep us warm in cold weather (shivering also boosts this conversion into brown fat) and also boosts our metabolism, helping us burn off calories faster. And of course exercise doesn’t just burn off a few calories, it builds muscle too, which as well as keeping us trim and shapely helps burn off calories even after our workout is over, helping with long-term weight control.
What’s more exercising outdoors raises your exposure to natural daylight and helps boost vitamin D in the body – both of which can be in short supply in the winter months. It also releases endorphins (our happy hormones). These all work to improve your mood. This in turn makes you more able to stick to healthier behaviours – from healthy eating patterns to cutting back on cigarettes or alcohol.
Exercise also helps you de-stress, which is good for health, mood, and weight control as you’re less likely to reach for sugary, fatty foods. Plus exercising outdoors puts a healthy glow in your cheeks and a spring in your step – better than any beauty product on the shelves!
All reasons enough to come out from under the duvet and head outdoors, even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing. By focusing on the big outdoors rather than obsessing about calories and step machines you will boost your health and mood in a way that will last longer than any New Year resolutions.
What’s more, dodge the worst of the rain and wrap up well, and once you’re out there you might enjoy the winter conditions more than you expected.
Dr Sally Norton:
UK Leading Health Expert, NHS Weight Loss Consultant & Surgeon. Founder of www.vavistalife.com