Health: Combatting the January blues




As the winter chill sets in, it’s not just the temperature that’s dropping but also our motivation to stay active. January can bring with it dark nights, money worries, and depressive thoughts for many, but with a fresh year, there’s no better time to get moving.

A recent study by Better Gyms, the UK’s largest leisure operator, raised concern about a “Fitness Freeze” as exercise rates plummet during the colder months. Coupled with this decline, searches for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) soar by an average of 113%, highlighting the mental health challenges many Britons face during the winter.

According to Better’s findings, a noteworthy two in five Brits expressed that engaging in regular exercise plays a pivotal role in helping them feel less stressed. Additionally, 35% of respondents highlighted that physical activity contributes to a reduction in feelings of anxiety and depression. These statistics underscore the intrinsic link between exercise and mental well-being, which is especially important during a time when individuals may be more susceptible to the January blues.

It’s important to understand that exercise of any kind can be beneficial to your mental-health, and Brits report that just being outside in blue and green spaces can help them feel calm and happy. Even if that’s taking a walk by a canal (37%), or running through a park (24%), incorporating physical activity into your routine can contribute significantly to lifting spirits and combating feelings of anxiety and depression. With 86% of Brits saying they live less than 30 minutes away from a blue or green space, it’s clear that the UK has plenty of access to these, and interestingly, those who lived closest to blue or green spaces suffered the least with anxiety and depression.

To combat the Fitness Freeze and beat the winter blues, Better have enlisted the expertise of Georgina Sturmer, a counsellor supporting individuals through depression and anxiety. 

“Physical activity offers benefits to our physical health, but it can also have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. When we use our bodies, stretch our muscles, and elevate our heartbeat, we are tuning into what our body needs. This helps us gain perspective and connect with the outside world. Exercise can help reduce depression, which is the major feature of Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is partly due to the immediate mood-lifting powers of exercise. And it’s also partly down to the other features that accompany exercise. 

“For example, exercise might make us spend time outside in nature or connecting with other people, which can help to ground us and reduce loneliness or isolation. When we exercise, this can also have a positive impact on self-esteem, which can help combat negative thinking and self-criticism.”

“It can be hard to stay motivated when the weather gets cold and dark.  If you’re goal-oriented, then it might help you to have your ‘eyes on the prize’. Try to build exercise into your social life; in the winter, consider suggesting to your friends that you head out for a walk, or a class at the gym, or participate in a challenge event together.”

The full research findings and winter workout tips can be found here:

Main Photo Credit: Jenny Hill via Unsplash

Sorted Staff Writer


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