Why you should be keeping active this Aussie winter

24 June 2021

As we all start to feel the cold onset of winter – some places in Australia much more than others! – Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is reminding Aussies that keeping active and exercising is still just as important in the colder seasons as the warmer ones.

“During the colder months, it’s not uncommon to see more people hitting the snooze button and skipping that morning run or Pilates session, but there’s a wide variety of benefits for keeping active during winter,” explains Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA CEO.

“Besides the variety of physical health benefits of exercise which don’t just stop being vital because it’s colder, keeping active is still so important for your mental health – especially if you’re experiencing the ‘winter blues’.”

Although seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is not as common in Australia compared to our Northern Hemisphere counterparts who experience longer periods of darkness during winter, many Australians do report that they feel flat and lethargic in winter.

“Some simple mood-boosting lifestyle changes, such as exercising and keeping active, can help improve our mental health in winter and help drive away more serious disorders such as depression and anxiety,” adds Anita.

Another important benefit to remember about exercising during winter is how it can strengthen our immune system, helping to fight off common colds, the flu, and other respiratory infections such as COVID-19.

Regular “acute” exercise – which is a workout that lasts less than 60 minutes – boosts your immune system and helps fight off infections. Exercise does this by allowing immune cells to perform effectively. It increases blood flow, reduces stress and inflammation, and can strengthen antibodies.

However, if you haven’t been able to successfully starve off the common cold this winter, it can then be hard to know whether you should continue to exercise or if you should avoid it.

“The general rule is that if your cold symptoms are mild and from the neck up, low-to-moderate exercise will be okay, if you’re feeling up to it. This may include a sore throat, a stuffy or runny nose, or a slight headache.”

“If you feel unwell and your symptoms are more troublesome, particularly below the neck, taking some time out from exercising and resting is recommended. This includes symptoms such as a chest congestion, a fever, a wet cough, or any muscular or joint aches and pains.”

If you’re experiencing systemic symptoms, which affect the whole body, then the smart advice is not to exercise as this could potentially prolong your illness or put others within your exercise/sporting community at risk at becoming unwell.

If you are experiencing some mild cold symptoms then you might wish to hold off on from visiting the gym and sharing any germs. Although reducing your exercise intensity and duration until you start to feel better is a good idea, it doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising completely!

There’s a variety of ways to keep active outside of the gym – ensuring that you’re monitoring your cold symptoms and signs of fatigue and resting when you need it.

Non-indoor gym options to stay active include:
  • going for a walk in the park (BYO pet!) or a hike in your local national park
  • soaking up the sunshine and making the most of outdoor fitness equipment
  • going for a swim and doing laps in the local heated pool
It’s important that you continue to exercise right for you and your overall health. ESSA has a compilation of handy eBooks about how to exercise right specific to women, men, older adults, and kids, all available to download for free here.

Need an extra hand with your exercise regime? Get in touch with your local accredited exercise professional for expert advice. Visit the online directory today.

All media enquiries can be directed to media@essa.org.au.