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DEC 20, 2023

Combating Seasonal Affective Disorder to Maintain Your Exercise Routine


Explore the link between Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and exercise motivation, and uncover strategies to combat it.

Read time: 3 minutes

Have you ever made the connection between shorter, darker days and a distinct decrease in motivation? Well it may lift your spirits (somewhat) that this can be more than just cold weather blues. You could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And this can have a pretty adverse effect on your workout routine.

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder isn't some flakey term for disliking winter. It's a recognized psychological condition, with symptoms ranging from persistent low mood, increased irritability, and a noticeable loss of interest in physical activity. A lot of it can be linked to diminishing daylight, which tanks the body's serotonin levels - a key hormone that influences mood and motivation. Add to that the disruption of your internal body clock (no one likes going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark) and an impact on your circadian rhythm, and you can be left with feelings of lethargy and depression.

The Seasonal Impact on Mental and Physical Health

See, the icy grip of winter does more than just numb your fingers, it puts a freeze on your motivation too. The lack of sunlight leads to a drop in Vitamin D levels, which is closely linked to mood regulation. Additionally, the cold, often overcast weather can make the idea of outdoor exercise seem less appealing, leading to a vicious cycle of reduced physical activity and declining mental health.

Maintaining Physical Health to Combat SAD

Now, while there are of course professional routes that you should absolutely explore, don’t forget you have a powerful ally right at your side: regular exercise. The trick is how to motivate yourself to get those endorphins pumping and counteract the effects of SAD. But how do you muster the will to workout when your brain is telling you to hibernate?

Embrace Indoor Activities

Not a fan of the cold? Move your workout indoors. Join a gym, try indoor swimming, or even a dance class. The key is to find an activity that you enjoy and can look forward to.

Light Therapy

Invest in a light therapy lamp. These lamps mimic natural outdoor light and are known to help improve mood and energy levels, making it easier to get moving.

Create a Routine

Set a regular exercise schedule. Routine can create a sense of normalcy and control, even when your mood is fluctuating.

Set Realistic Goals

Don't aim for a marathon straight away. Start with smaller, achievable goals that’ll give you a sense of accomplishment.

Seek Social Support

Exercise with a friend or join a fitness group. Social interaction can boost your mood and commitment.

Mindful Movement

Try yoga or Pilates, which focus on mindfulness and breathing, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety.

The Takeaway

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very real and challenging condition, but it's not insurmountable. By understanding its impact on your motivation for exercise and implementing strategies to counteract it, you can maintain both your mental and physical health through the colder months. So, keep moving, stay positive, and Spring will be here before you know it!

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Written by Matthew Stogdon

Matt has been writing for two decades, across print and digital media. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, with several accolades under his belt.

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