Exercise levels drop during Winter for one in five adults

We find other people more attractive after we've exercised (or been afraid).

A poll of 2,000 adults revealed they exercise an average of four times a week during summer, but this decreases during the colder months, with 31 per cent less active then than at any other time of the year.

Nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of those put the drop in activity down to the colder temperatures, with 57 per cent put off by the dark mornings and evenings.

Others admitted they find it more difficult to get out of bed during the winter (49 per cent), are worried about safety when exercising alone in the dark (27 per cent) and have less energy (24 per cent).

The spring and autumn months were the most popular time of year to get in shape, with 49 per cent wishing they could maintain the healthy mindset they adopt in warmer months across the cold, dark winters.

And more than a third live a healthier lifestyle generally in the summer compared to the winter.

Andreas Michaelides, Ph.D., chief of psychology, at Noom, the psychology-backed behaviour change programme, which commissioned the research, said:

“For many, winter can play havoc with our intentions, causing us to exercise less or change our eating habits.

“Whether it’s the dark, the cold, stress, or tiredness, many external factors can impact our decision-making at this time of year.

“The data indicates that ‘hibernation mode’ kicks in for almost one in five of us, and we often lose our motivation to maintain our routines compared to the summer months due to barriers like the weather and holidays.

“Adapt your routine by going for a walk on a treadmill instead of running outside or swapping your summer salad for a warming vegetable soup instead.”

Colder months can cause Brits to exercise less

The study, carried out via OnePoll, also found walking is the most common form of exercise undertaken by Brits throughout the year.

This was followed by running, cycling and bodyweight exercises, such as press-ups and pull-ups. And 23 per cent enjoy exercising ‘a lot’.

But winter is a season for indulgence with 40 per cent enjoying more food in December than at any other time of the year, as temptations peak with Christmas parties and food-centred celebrations.

More than one in five (22 per cent) are also likely to order more takeaways, and 28 per cent get through more packets of biscuits during the winter. And 28 per cent admitted they eat chocolate more frequently at this time of year.

Andreas Michaelides, Ph.D. from Noom, added: “Thankfully, maintaining healthy habits over winter doesn’t mean banishing your favourite foods, or going on gruelling exercise routines, but rather incorporating small healthy habits here and there, that will lead to long-term, sustainable change.”

Top 10 reasons why Brits exercise less in winter

  1. It’s too cold
  2. It’s too dark
  3. It’s too wet
  4. You find it harder to motivate yourself
  5. You’re worried about safety when exercising in the dark outside
  6. You have less energy
  7. You’re more likely to pull a muscle or strain something because of the cold weather
  8. Hibernation mode kicks in – you’d rather stay in and watch TV
  9. You’re less body conscious in the winter as you wear more layers
  10. Costs are higher in winter due to running the heating, paying for Christmas etc. so you want to save on gym membership.

Noom Coach Brooke Marchand’s tips to keep your summer motivation through winter: 

1. Keep outdoor activities up

Increasing your Vitamin D intake is an effective way to manage low moods and energy levels impacted by winter weather. A great way to boost these levels is by getting outside as much as possible during the day and enjoying natural sunlight – you only need about 20-30 minutes. However, if you struggle to find time for walks during the shorter days, you can also get Vitamin D from foods such as salmon, mushrooms and milk (including soy milk).

2. Explore new places

Make winter exercise interesting and exciting, by exploring new locations, new formats and new people to work out alongside. Take some time to research new trails or routes you haven’t been on before for a change of scenery during a run or walk. Encourage yourself to try new types of exercises, whether that’s yoga, running or weight training to keep practises interesting.

3. Listen to summer music, all year round

We tend to curate summer feeling, fun and upbeat playlists to get us in the mood for summertime, but not the winter. Keep your feel-good music playing all year round to ensure your motivation to get up and out is maintained through all seasons of the year.

4. Stick to established routines

Maintaining a regular routine throughout all months of the year, can be a really helpful way to keep a positive mindset all year round. Not only does it help you cement long-lasting healthy habits, it will have a particularly positive impact on your sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time has been proven to improve sleep quality. People who tend to struggle with their mood in the winter months, also struggle to sleep and often have trouble getting up in the morning. The two are intrinsically linked.

Chris Price