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Exercising in winter

Winter's darker and shorter days can be a turn-off when it comes to exercising.

Don't be discouraged. There's no reason to hibernate and store away your fitness gear. Keep active through the winter months to boost your mood and keep in shape.

Exercise is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle, whatever the season. Adults should aim to do a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity at least five times a week.

Examples range from walking the dog and doing the housework to running or dancing.

More energy

Regular exercise will make you feel more energetic, which should make it a little easier to get out of your warm bed on cold, dark mornings.

Your body’s defences will also benefit. There is some limited research suggesting that moderate exercise can strengthen the immune system, thereby reducing the risk of coughs and colds. However, more research is needed in this area.

If the shorter days are affecting your mood, being active can improve your sense of well-being.

You may be tempted to eat more during the colder months. Exercising will help you manage your weight better and keep in shape.

Get tips on eating a healthy balanced diet and take regular exercise to maintain a healthy body weight.

Something you enjoy

Choose an activity that you enjoy. Now might be the time to try something new, such as salsa dancing, swimming, fitness classes or other indoor sports such as badminton or five-a-side football. Find activities near you.

You don’t even have to stop doing outdoor activities. You could take a long walk at the weekend or go for a bike ride. Just wrap up warm and be careful if it’s wet or icy.

If being outside when it's windy, raining or snowing doesn’t appeal, rent a fitness video and try some exercising at home.

Warm up

If you’re starting a new exercise regime, don’t overdo it. Slowly build the amount of exercise you do. If can't manage 30 minutes in one go, break it up into 10-minute chunks.

Always warm-up for up to 10 minutes before you start. Walk at a brisk pace, or jog in order to warm your muscles.

Make sure you’re warm if you’re going outside. Wear several layers to keep the heat in. A lot of heat escapes through your head, so consider wearing a hat as well.

Stay safe

If you're exercising after dark, keep to well-lit areas and wear bright and reflective clothing. Ideally, exercise with a friend, but always tell someone where you’re going.

Avoid listening to music while running outdoors. Not hearing what’s going on around you can make you vulnerable.

If rain or ice is making exercise dangerous, do it another day. The weather might be better tomorrow, but an injury could take weeks to heal.

If you have a cold

Colds are more common in winter, but you don’t necessarily have to stop running if you’re feeling under the weather. According to Dr Keith Hopcroft, a GP from Basildon in Essex, use common sense and listen to your body.

“If your symptoms are not severe and you generally feel OK, then you can go running. If you feel absolutely rotten, then it’s best not to go.”

However, it’s important not to run if you have a fever. A fever is when your body’s temperature is 38C (100.4F) or above and is rarely a symptom of a cold. “If you run with a fever,” says Dr Hopcroft, “it’ll make you feel worse. In very rare cases, running with a fever can lead to the virus affecting your heart, which can be dangerous.”

If you have asthma, take extra care when running in winter as cold air can trigger symptoms. Dr Hopcroft recommends using your inhaler before you go running and taking it with you when you run.

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