(Disclaimer: I’m not in any way an expert in diet, exercise, mental health or health in general. All my advice on SAD is based on my own experience of it and on information I’ve picked up on the way. If you believe you’re suffering from SAD or any other health condition your first port of call should be with your doctor to rule out the possibility underlying illness.)
When you're tired and fed up exercise is likely to be far from your mind. In Winter the only exercise I tend to get is working too and from work, but lately I've been doing yoga at home several times a week and I'm planning on getting well and truely into the habit by the time Winter sets in as my mood soars after doing it. It can be hard to stay fit in Winter for anyone but it's further complicated if you're experiencing the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Personally I don't think it's worthburning up my scarce Winter energy in a strenuous work out, but I find that doing some gentle exercise lifts my mood and keeps me fit. Here are some ideas for gentle exercise that will help you keep well without leaving you drained:
- Walking: A long walk out in nature gives you some head space, but even a walk in your local park or around your neighbourhood will stop you from becoming too stationary between now and Spring. Turn it from a gentle stroll into a brisk walk and it will get your heart working a little harder. The same goes for cycling and jogging if you feel up to it, just keep it light and comfortable.
- Home exercise: It's easy to fit in bits and pieces like lifting hand weights at home if you decide you're going to do it. How about sit ups, push ups and using an exercise ball? No need to leave the house, pay gym fees or drag yourself out for a run in the cold and you can listen to music or watch TV at the same time. If you're new to weights or havn't lifted any for a long time start off light and work your way up so that you're building muscles without straining them.
- Yoga and Pilates: These are good for your body and mind, they're however challenging you want them to be and they build strength and flexibility. I've got a fractured coccyx and doing yoga stretches regularly has gently stretched all the muscles that were putting pressure on the injury, which has reduced the pain almost completely, so it could benefit you in unexpected ways. All you need is an exercise madtand loose, comfortable clothes. I do yoga at home following DVDs from DDP Yoga (DDP is Diamond Dallas Paige, an wrestler who got into yoga when he suffered a severe injury. He's put together a workout series called Yoga For Real Guys to get more men into the benefits of yoga). The instructor's enthusiastic and jolly, the routines are varied and I enjoy being able to get out my mat and do it at home whenever it suits me. You can buy or rent DVDs or search on YouTube for instructional videos. Alternatively there are yoga and pilates classes available in most towns. As Mr DDP says "Pain does not mean gain, pain means pain" so listen to your body and take things at it's own pace.
- Swimming: I have to confess that I struggle with this at the best of times because of the faff of getting there, getting changed then coming home damp, but the actual swimming in the middle is good fun. Swimming works out you whole body and the water supports you so it's gentler on your joints. I enjoy paddling up and down the pool with my unique combination of breast stroke and doggy paddle. Most pools run aquarobics classes and similar, even yoga in the pool. If you can't swim or aren't confident at it there are adult only classes that can get you started.
- Dancing: If you feel up for it put on some music and dance rediculously. Wiggle, hop and prance like you've lost your grip to lift your spirits and get your heart pumping.