Body & Fitness

9 ways to embrace the colder months

Katy Street, a director at Auckland Physiotherapy, shares her strategies for keeping fit, happy and functional this winter.
Woman stretching on beach winterGetty Images

Take deeper breaths, but fewer of them.

Reducing your breathing rate and increasing the depth of your inhale/exhale through diaphragmatic breathing does wonders for your health.

It can reduce stress, lower cortisol levels and improve the rate at which you recover from a stressful situation.

Breathing exercises can also improve your focus and productivity at work and improve digestion.

Try spending a few minutes, several times a day, focusing on breathing. Breathe in for four seconds, pause, then breathe out for six seconds.

Download a meditation app

Meditation has been clinically proven to improve mental health, concentration and general health.

If you are new to meditation, try downloading an app like Headspace or Calm and start with a short guided meditation such as a body scan.

At Auckland Physiotherapy our clients report an average 30 per cent reduction in stress and anxiety after completing one of our eight-week mindfulness courses.

Consider taking a supplement

To help combat the effects of stress and ensure better sleep, we recommend Metagenics CalmX magnesium powder, a prescription-only supplement.

If you think you would benefit from taking a supplement please speak to a clinician to see what would be right for you.

Up your intake of fruit and vegetables

Over the winter months it’s important to include as many nutrient-dense plants in your diet as possible.

You should aim to eat a large variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables to incorporate as many vitamins and minerals as you can.

Try increasing your intake to 10+ plants per day and aim to eat 30-50 different plants each week (including nuts, seeds and wholegrains).

Help your body produce melatonin for a restful night’s sleep

Avoid using devices or watching TV for at least two hours before bed and try dimming the lights as soon as the sun goes down.

Melatonin, your sleep hormone, is produced in the absence of bright light and regulates your body clock and sleep/wake cycles.

Your body and your mind recover while you sleep, and melatonin production helps to calm your stress response. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Do some exercise daily

Exercise releases endorphins which make you feel good and increase blood flow to your brain. Try to do some exercise daily, even if it’s just a 10-minute high-intensity workout.

Motivation and time are big barriers to movement. Goal setting, having a movement buddy and prioritising your movement and health are ways to help.

Get up from your desk

If you work at a desk, it’s even more important to move your body.

Gone are the days of thinking that sitting in a perfect posture to reduce pain and injury works. Fixing ourselves in static postures for prolonged periods of time is the issue.

Find a movement practice that you enjoy. Take regular breaks, stretch or try using a sit-to-stand desk and change position every 30-60 minutes.

If you have a pain or niggle, get it seen to quickly by a physiotherapist. Letting it linger can cause secondary problems and delay your recovery.

Get out and about

Get outside whenever possible.

Studies have found that just looking at nature can increase parasympathetic tone and reduce stress. Even listening to the sound of the ocean can reduce your heart rate and stress levels.

Take a walk in the park or surround yourself with greenery whenever you can.

Connect with other people

Join an exercise class or take part in a group hobby.

With the rise in social media, physical contact is becoming less frequent and loneliness is rising in western countries.

Connecting with other people improves brain health and reduces stress.

Related stories