Most people associate winter with colds, flu and general tiredness; but it doesn't have to be this way. The combination of colder weather, poor diet due to comfort eating, lower UV light exposure and more time spent indoors puts more stress on your body. It's no wonder more people suffer from illness in the winter. In our last blog "How to Achieve Your New Year Goals in 2020", we discussed the best ways to set your new year resolution and stick to it. In this blog we give you five tips to transform your health for the new year and beyond.
1. Get Outside More
Too many people are put off by the shorter days and bad weather that the winter brings. So they work all day, then come home and sit on the sofa all evening. This results in reduced activity levels, potential weight gain and less UV light exposure. UV light is converted to vitamin D, by the skin when exposed to UVB radiation. We need vitamin D in order to absorb Calcium and Phosphate from our diets. However winter sun in the UK doesn't contain much UVB for the body to process, so even if you're getting out a lot, it's still advised to supplement with vitamin D, especially in the winter. Even in the summer many people struggle to get outdoors as much as they could. Spending time outside, can give us a powerful psychological boost, we get in touch with nature, the natural elements, sunlight and fresh air. All of this provides a naturally healthy boost to your mind, soul and body.
Once you start going outside more, especially in the winter, you'll be much more likely to exercise outside, which is healthier, you'll be more likely to discover outdoor sports that you can then really enjoy more when the summer comes around.
2. Diet Improvements
In winter we seek comfort. Warm places, comfort food, relaxation etc. However comfort plays on our weaknesses, the more comfort you give yourself, the more you'll want, this results in lower motivation and laziness, which in turn normally means poor diet choices. Now is the time to make some big changes to your diet, which you can turn into a habit. So when spring and summer come around, you'll be in a fantastic position to boost your health and fitness even further.
This can be as simple as downloading an app to measure your macro-nutrients and stick to a macro plan. Or if you already do this, then increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet. Maybe it's time to try juicing, or intermittent fasting. No matter what diet changes you make they will help to transform both your physique and your mental state. Carbs tend to dominate winter foods and the excess carbs in turn cause use to overeat and therefore store fat. This is a natural process to give us a protective fat blanket to protect us from the cold. However, in the modern world we no longer need this protective fat and it will only inhibit your fitness goals and aesthetic goals.
3. Increase Your Cold Exposure
This follows on from point one, but to a more extreme level. Our modern bodies experience very little discomfort, thanks to all of the luxuries of the westernised world. If we're getting cold inside we turn up the heating, if we're going to get cold outside we wear warm clothes. So our body, which is designed to survive in multiple environments, doesn't practice the processes that occur when it gets cold.
If you haven't heard of Wim Hoff, aka "The Ice Man", then take some time to watch some of his videos on YouTube. He has spent most of his life pushing his body to the absolute limits, including running a half marathon in the arctic circle with only bare feet and standing in a coffin-sized box filled with ice cubes for almost two hours. He pushes the boundaries of physiology and science, but his principles are very sound. Push your body to cope with that which it's designed to cope with and you'll become much more resilient as a result.
One easy way of doing this to start with, is simply having cold showers. It may sound crazy and not at all beneficial, but you'll be surprised at the effects. Cold showers help to reduce muscular and general inflammation, they can improve your immune response if done regularly and they really give you a mental boost in the morning, that's better than a double espresso! The other benefit is simply pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, which will strengthen your resolve and boost your motivation.
4. Reduce Alcohol and/or Sugar
This is probably the most empowering thing on this list, but for most of us also probably the hardest. These are two very addictive substances that are so embedded in western culture that they are very difficult to avoid.
Sugar has been tested on rats and was proven to be more addictive than cocaine! When so many of our everyday foods and drinks contain sugar it makes it a huge challenge to completely cut it out of our diets. The health benefits of a major reduction in sugar are tremendous: Younger-looking skin, less belly fat, more efficient insulin response, better energy levels, weight-loss, improved cardic health and more. Not to mention the money savings if you're someone who buys a lot of sweets, chocolates and other goodies!
A good way to begin a reduction in sugar is to start by giving up all sugary foods and desserts, but allowing yourself one treat a week. The treat can be as sugary as you like, but only have one per week. You'll really look forward to the treat and it'll make you think about every sugary food you consider eating, as you'll wonder if it's good enough to be "treat of the week".
Initially have as much natural sugar as you like, so fruit and honey can work as a substitute for pure sugar and sugary treats, but after 4-6 weeks of the above plan, then aim to reduce your fruit intake to no more than 1 piece a day. After a few months you will have broken your addiction to sugar and you'll notice the health benefits.
Alcohol is actually less physically addictive than sugar, however it can cause a lot more harm and still has the potential for addiction. In addition to this, the UK has a very strong alcohol culture, making it very hard for people who want to limit or give up alcohol. Social pressure from friends and family to drink is actually normal and you can feel like a social outcast if you stop drinking.
Depending on your current consumption, one way to start reducing your alcohol consumption is to limit yourself to only a few units a week. Start by working out your average weekly units and then start by halving that amount, then aim to reduce this by a unit or so per week.
This is much easier said than done, so here's a few tips on how to limit your alcohol intake:
Find a soft drink you like. It could even be a simple virgin cocktail, such as blackcurrant and soda, or something else you can get in most bars and restaurants. Especially if you ask for it served in a wine glass or tall glass then people are less likely to hassle you about not drinking.
Change your social habits. Instead of going for a date to a bar, what about doing something more inventive? Or rather than meeting up with friends on a Friday evening, how about meeting for Sunday morning coffee? Instead of after-work drinks, what about an after-work sports event?
Avoid doing rounds. Firstly you'll feel that you're missing out as you'll be buying expensive rounds, when you're only drinking soft drinks, secondly your friends may feel bad for you and decide to slip you an alcoholic drink or two.
- Find a new way to relax. Many people use alcohol as a relaxant, particularly after work, or at the end of the week. But this can become a dependency. Finding a new way to relax to replace alcohol will really help break this habit.
5. Start Weight Training
We could have made number five "stop smoking", but that's very similar to stopping alcohol and/or sugar. So instead we thought we'd add something relevant to our brand. Whether you're a man or woman, if you don't already train with resistance or weights, then you're missing out. There are many benefits of lifting weights, or training with some sort of resistance. Here's just a few:
- You'll get stronger and being stronger is actually useful for everyday activities and tasks.
- You'll boost your metabolism, a faster metabolism means your body will burn more calories naturally. This makes losing weight easier and also means you can get away with eating more and not putting on as much fat as someone with a slower metabolism.
- You'll look better. Even for women, a bit of muscle adds definition and tone to the body.
- Weight training can boost your self-confidence as you'll feel fitter and stronger.
- You will improve your heart health. Weight training creates higher pressures in your circulatory system and trains your heart, making it stronger and more resilient.
This is just a few of the many benefits of regular resistance training, adding some weight to your training will work wonders if you're not doing it already. If you decided to introduce weights into your workout routine, here's one of our best selling weight training products to get you started: