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Exercise May Help Ease the ‘Winter Blues’ – Consumer Health News

SATURDAY, Nov. 12, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A good workout can lift your mood, making it an ideal routine as the days get shorter and darker.

If you are one of the millions affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and feel tired, unmotivated, low, and craving carbohydrates and sweets, staying active can help. An expert from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston offers some tips for maintaining an exercise routine.

“With seasonal affective disorder, you want to continue to exercise or even increase exercise,” said Dr. James McDeavitt, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation. “Relatively sustained aerobic exercise positively affects mood, but you don’t just have to run or do aerobics, you can do things like yoga, tai chi or meditation, which help with symptoms of depression.”

Habits are built through perseverance, he emphasized. It takes about three months to form one. Taking a winter break will likely cause a person to lose the habit faster than they can develop it.

“You experience low levels of serotonin and dopamine in SAD, depression or other conditions, but increasing neurotransmitter levels through exercise has a benefit,” McDeavitt said in a Baylor news release.

To exercise safely outside in winter, wear reflective clothing and a flashing light. Leave your headphones at home so you can be more aware of your surroundings, she added.

Predictable running surfaces, such as a well-paved track or road, may be the best way to avoid injuries in low-light conditions.

“There is a balance. Find a place secluded enough to be protected from traffic while also making sure there are enough people around you to feel safe,” McDeavitt advised. “You can also bring personal protection with you.”

Those who prefer to exercise indoors can use dumbbells or resistance bands to get a good resistance workout, he noted.

Pushups, planks, and squats are other good bodyweight exercises. If you can afford it, McDeavitt suggested, buy a treadmill or stationary bike to use at home.

“There is value in maintaining your routine seasonally. Even if you run regularly outside in the spring and have to move indoors in the winter, don’t stop exercising,” McDeavitt said.

To improve mood, add a mindfulness component, such as yoga, tai chi, or stretching.

“There are things you can do indoors that not only give you physical benefits, but also emotional benefits,” McDeavitt said.

If you have symptoms of SAD or any type of depression, talk to your primary care provider and get help. For those in distress in the United States, dial 988 to connect to the Crisis and Suicide Hotline, which provides confidential support.

More information

The US National Institute of Mental Health has more about SAD.

SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine, news release, Nov. 9, 2022

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