Exercise away the Winter Blues this Holiday Season

Exercise away the winter blues

Exercise away the winter blues


The winter season is upon us, and with it comes shorter days and chilly weather.  Unfortunately, the short days and long nights, along with the change in seasons, can contribute to the Winter Blues, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  These short, cold days make people want to spend more time indoors; combine that with overconsumption of holiday treats, and it can lead to weight gain, feelings of sluggishness, and an increase in the possibility of being afflicted with SAD.  So what can be done to combat SAD? The feelings of tiredness and irritability that are characteristic of the Winter Blues can be battled through partaking in a healthy exercise regimen.  Exercising your way through the fall and winter months can provide you with a wide array of health benefits, including helping to beat the Winter Blues! 

Studies have found that regular exercise can be as effective as medication in helping to stave off mild depression and other symptoms associated with the Winter Blues.  Engaging in outdoor physical activity during a nice day in natural daylight is especially powerful in fighting off the negative feelings associated with SAD.  Regular, moderate to vigorous intensity exercise of at least 30 to 60 minutes, 3 to 5 days a week, can help boost feel-good chemicals that are released in the brain.  Additionally, exercise can help improve sleep, reduce winter weight gain, and boost a person’s self-esteem.   Exercising with a friend or loved one has also been found to boost people’s moods.  Exercise can take any form, from walking the dog, to shoveling snow (if done for at least 30 minutes), to dancing to your favorite tunes.  So if you’re looking for a way to combat the Winter Blues this season, look no further than your own backyard (or living room, or friendly neighborhood gym).   

The Air Force has some great resources for those who would like to beat the Winter Blues this season.  Use of free Fitness Centers and free consults with Health Promotions professionals on a variety of topics ranging from healthy holiday eating to tobacco cessation are available at many installations.  Additionally, if you need some extra assistance managing stress during the holiday season, or otherwise, please contact one of your local helping agencies: Chaplain services; Mental Health Clinic; Military Family Life Consultant, or the Behavioral Health Consultant (BHOP) in your area. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also a resource available to all: phone number is 00800-1273-TALK (8255) or DSN 118.