With colder weather fastly approaching and the days progressively getting shorter as we edge towards the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, many adults may find themselves feeling low on energy or unmotivated.
Especially in parts of the world that don’t get a lot of sunlight in the winter months, like Alaska, Scandinavia, or Iceland, seasonal depression may become a challenge for individuals.
Seasonal depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder is brought on by the changing of seasons but most often is brought on by the transition of fall into winter. Symptoms include feeling sad or down more days than not, trouble sleeping, and weight gain, along with a plethora of others.
There are many causes of SAD but the most prominent ones are a disturbance of circadian rhythm, a drop in serotonin levels, and a disruption in melatonin levels in the body. People with bipolar depression may also be at a higher risk of developing SAD.
So you may be wondering about ways of preventing or treating SAD. While there are treatments for SAD like light therapy, talk therapy, and medication, exercise can be an outlet to curb SAD symptoms.
I've sought to compile a list of inexpensive exercise-related activities and their benefits for your health and well-being during these cold winter months to help inspire you to get your body moving and fight off SAD.
Cross Country Skiing
If you live in a snowy place like Norway or Switzerland, try a hand at cross-country skiing! It provides a perfect opportunity to get outside and explore the outdoors and environment when you feel snowed in on a cold, dark day.
Seasoned skiers and hikers alike can find enjoyment in the serene movement of gliding across the snow as a way to find balance and stability in a fast-paced world. It may take a few tumbles to get the hang of at first, but the time spent on skis with friends or family members offers great mental rewards.
Tap into your child side when the snow starts to pile with sledging. This easy and inexpensive mode of getting outside and moving can be done when you're feeling the least bit motivated. You don't even need a sledge! The top of a trash bin or a tube can work just as well, just be wary of how steep of a hill you're going down because it is safer to use a sledge on steeper hills.
Believe it or not, sledging has an aerobic aspect to it of hauling the sledge up a hill to be able to glide down it. On top of that, it's great for mental health because you’re being exposed to nature which helps alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety.
If heading outside into the cold doesn't sound appealing, yoga may be the perfect solution. Alternatively, yoga has been found to lower stress levels and anxiety and increase self-worth and confidence which could provide a useful escape to your blue days during the winter.
On top of the added mental benefits, yoga also provides an outlet to stretch and work on your body’s flexibility and strength, and even get in some pranayama breathwork to help calm your mind. Grab your mat and some comfy clothes (pyjamas accepted) and namaste all day!
Walking or hiking must be the most convenient form of exercise. It's accessible in most parts of the world and all you need are clothes. You even can increase the intensity of it from walking on the sidewalk of your neighbourhood to hiking up Mount Everest.
Walking can be great if you’re having trouble sleeping at night. Especially if you’re able to get out early in the morning for a stroll and soak in the morning sun.
Body Weight HIIT
If you're itching for something more exhilarating and intense, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may be for you. HIIT is a powerful aerobic exercise that works on building body strength throughout the body without the necessity of weighted equipment.
HIIT is known to relive stress and anxiety and can be performed from the comfort of your home. There are also a whole bunch of HIIT videos on YouTube that you can follow along with if you're a novice to exercise or just want some inspiration.
It's getting colder and darker outside, and many adults may be feeling the mental effects of the cooler and shorter days. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a common mental health disorder that many adults will experience in their lives.
Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs during the transition of seasons and has many symptoms that are similar to Major Depressive Disorder. SAD also has several causes and risk factors, with individuals possessing bipolar depression being more at risk.
Exercise and the benefits it has on mental health is not a new concept, but some people may find it hard to get their bodies moving during darker periods of the year, like late fall and winter. Nonetheless, exercise is still a vital outlet for keeping you sane during colder months.
There are many exercises and sports that can be explored during the winter, both outside utilising the environment or inside the warmth of your house. Cross-country skiing, sledging, yoga, walking and hiking, and HIIT are great options to curb seasonal depression, and I hope you find them enjoyable and beneficial to your health and well-being.
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