Tips for staying active, healthy and beating the winter blues

WATCH ABOVE: Dr. Brett Belchetz appears on The Morning Show and discusses a new study that says light therapy can benefit those suffering from depression.

TORONTO — With winter just around the corner, you may feel inclined to lie on the couch, wrap up in a blanket and watch television all day long.

You may already start to feel laziness creeping its way into your life, from what’s commonly known as the winter blues.

“It’s another title for what’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder … It’s having a low mode in the winter, and it could be as intense as having full blown depression in the winter time,” says Naturopathic Doctor, Inna Lokshin.

READ MORE: Light therapy benefits for non-seasonal depression as well: study

In Ontario, 15 per cent of people suffer from the mild form of depression and two to three per cent of the general population may have SAD, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario.

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Lokshin explains that the disorder occurs during the winter months from a lack of light exposure. This tends to be more common in the Northern hemisphere where we have shorter days and often wake up when it’s still dark outside.

Despite the fact that exercise generally decreases in the winter time, Lokshin explains that winter is a critical time to keep your body moving.

READ MORE: Change in season causing Seasonal Affective Disorder for many

“It’s even more so important in the winter, because of all the holidays we tend to overindulge a lot in different foods and drinks, and also experience maybe a little more stress during those time periods,” says Lokshin.

“So it’s all the more important to stay active during that time period.”

As most businesses begin a regular work routine in the winter time when employees are back from vacations, World Dragon Boat Racing Championship paddler and personal trainer director at LA Fitness, Victor Young, says that many businesses can steer their focus on production, income, and profit — resulting in higher stress levels.

“I feel like the summer months are downtown for a lot of people, everyone goes on vacation, they want to relax, spend time with the family, and then they go back to this regular work routine that I feel like not a lot of us are a fan of,” says Young.

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If your mood is beginning to feel as cold as the temperature outside, Lokshin and Young have tips to stay motivated this winter:

Sufficient Vitamin D

“We know that unlike other vitamins that we consume through our food, this is a vitamin that we get directly from sun exposure and hence a lot of people in Canada are deficient in it because in the winter we don’t get enough,” says Lokshin.

It’s important to test your levels to know what your baseline is and then talk to your healthcare provider about how you can be supplementing Vitamin D.

Lokshin recommends testing your levels before September or October to increase your stores before the full blown winter.

Light Therapy

Light Therapy helps you replace natural sunlight that you otherwise might not be receiving.

There are devices called light boxes, or visors, which can be purchased in many pharmacies and drug stores that you can wear at home or put by your desk.

“They produce a really high intensity light to sort of mimic what you get from natural lighting,” says Lokshin.

Stay Active

Make sure you continue to exercise and be mobile. One way to do this is pick up winter sports.

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Whether it’s something you do alone, with friends, or with your whole family like skiing or ice skating, finding a support system to do it with is really helpful to keep you motivated.

Taking classes like hot yoga, Zumba, or Pilates are also great ways to keep you motivated.

Set Physical Activity Goals

When walking into a gym this winter, “the first thing you need to do is have a goal in mind and know exactly what you need to do to get there,” says Young, adding that he compares working out to school.

“We don’t go through school without having a syllabus, or without knowing exactly what we need to do to get to a specific goal.”

Get a Personal Trainer

If it’s possible, get a personal trainer to help you with your workout regime.

“There are a very small percentage of us in this world that can actually get to our fitness goals without some help or some guidance,” says Young.

“The best athletes in the world have coaches and trainers,” he adds.

“A lot of people sort of underestimate the kind of help that a personal trainer can provide, and it really does wonders to take you to your fitness goals.”

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Young was a professional paddler for Canada’s National team, and after training for 8 years, he still has a trainer that he sees twice a week.

Workout with a Buddy

If it’s not possible to get a personal trainer, working out with a buddy who has similar fitness goals as you do is a great alternative.

If you get a buddy or have a group, you can work towards your fitness goals together and do similar exercises to motivate one another.

Be honest with yourself

“Is being healthy and being fit a priority for you to really get up and do something?” Young regularly asks his clients.

If not, than Young says you must admit that to yourself.

Young explains that a lot of clients come into the gym wanting to get into shape, but they are not willing to do whatever it takes to see successful results.

Be honest with yourself and admit that it’s not that you just can’t do something, it’s just not a priority enough for you to do it.