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How to keep fit in the cold

5 MIN READ • 25th January 2017

Here’s why gale force winds and Arctic temperatures are no match for your workouts

As the days grow shorter and summer sports dwindle into the distance, it can seem like your fitness activities are doomed to take an inevitable dip. Psyching yourself up for a 30 minute trek amongst ice-cold puddles and sudden outbursts of sleet is only half the battle, however. When the colder months sets in, we are often met with a ton load of health ailments from fever and flu to stiff joints and sensitive skin. We know too well how quickly a stint of illness can become a major setback and that’s why we’ve rounded up an expert panel of health specialists to ensure you stay fighting fit throughout the chill.


The biggest contributor to winter dormancy is without a doubt the dreaded sniffles. Colds and coughs are four times more common during winter than summer, which means your immune system needs to be in tip-top shape if you want to successfully avoid hibernation mode. We turned to pharmacist and chair of the British Herbal Medicine Association (bhma. info) Dr Dick Middleton for some quality immunity-boosting advice:

Find your calm

When you are stressed and run down, you are twice as likely to develop symptoms when exposed to a common cold virus. This is thought to be a result of high levels of stress hormones and depleted adrenal glands. Start a relaxing practice such as yoga or meditation to discover your zen and stop colds in their tracks.

Top up your vitamin D

In the winter, darker days mean that the body’s ability to produce vitamin D is reduced. That’s bad news for us because studies link low levels of vitamin D3 to a compromised immune system. Weekly holidays to faraway destinations seem like the most obvious solution, naturally, but taking a daily D3 supplement is probably a little more realistic. Try Healthspan’s Super Strength Vitamin D3 (£11.95,

Make use of prebiotics

Countless studies suggest that good gut health is the key to a top-notch immune system. With this in mind, it’s important to ensure that you’re looking after your good bacteria. A good quality prebiotic will provide your gut’s microflora with the nutrients it’s need thrive, ensuring your on top form for all your winter workouts.

Slay your sleep cycle

Sufficient shut-eye ensures your immune organs – tonsils, sinus and lymph glands – are given the chance to regenerate. If you’re struggling to get your eight hours, try a hot cup of chamomile tea to soothe you into a peaceful slumber. Don’t like herbal tea? Opt for a steaming cup of Zenbev. This pumpkin seed drink contains tryptophan, a serotonin-boosting amino acid that regulates sleep and mood.

Think positive

There has been a wealth of interesting studies suggesting that optimism improves immunity, reduces stress and is associated with a lower risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer. Being positive also comes with the added of bonus of making you appear more friendly towards others.

Clean up your act

Good hand hygiene is essential to help prevent the spread of viruses. All it takes is a hand on an infected surface followed by a rub of an eye and you’re infected. Make sure you’re washing your hands regularly and make use of a hand sanitizer throughout the day.

Wrap up warm

The old wives’ tale about catching a cold when you get wet and shivery appears to have some basis in fact. When you feel cold, blood is directed away from your peripheries, including your nose, so respiratory infections meet less resistance to their attack. Be sure to wrap up warm when exercising outdoors.


In the colder months, chilly climes and a lack of vitamin D can wreak havoc on your joints. We know as well as anyone that stiff muscles and stubborn aches can bring the allure of the sofa into sharp focus, but you don’t need to write off the winter just yet.

Dr Sarah Brewer, GP and registered nutritionist, advises her clients to take extra care of the joints through supplementation. “Omega 3 fish oils are great for lubricating cartilage (the connective tissue that protects the articulating ends of the bone) and you should also be stocking up on glucosamine,” says Sarah. “Studies have found that a regular intake can delay the breakdown of cartilage as well as repairing it.” How’s that for a win-win situation?

While preventative measures are great, we would never leave you high and dry for those moments when the pain has settled in against all defences! Sarah suggests a turmeric supplement for its anti-inflammatory properties or chowing down on a few squares of chocolate (providing it contains at least 70 percent cocoa solids, of course). Just 40g is packed with an incredible amount of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and even higher levels of immune-boosting antioxidants to sweeten the deal that little bit more.


It’s an all too familiar story: you’ve been working on keeping limber with countless summer yoga sessions, only to find you’re right back at square one as the year comes to a close. What gives? Catie Miller, founder of Xtend Barre London, explains:
“Cold weather leads to cold muscles and cold muscles are notoriously short and tense. This can make you feel as though your flexibility has been reduced and you may well experience a restricted range of motion. It’s therefore extremely important to warm up before exercise to ensure muscles remain supple,” she says. “This will return your flexibility to its former glory, boost circulation and help towards preventing injury.

“You should also ensure that you’re stretching before and after each workout no matter what the season. Flexibility is a fickle thing, and the moment you stop stretching, it will start to decrease. You should aim to start each session with a warm up that incorporates dynamic stretching such as leg swings, walking lunges and high knees. This will increase your heart rate, warm your muscles and prepare your body for the sweat sesh ahead. At the end of your workout you should perform a variety of stretches targeting the major muscle groups that you worked in order to aid recovery.”


Winter skin usually means dryness, but for some, it can be more extreme: conditions like eczema and dermatitis are heightened by cold winds and heating. And when your skin’s looking less than fabulous, it can be difficult to work up the confidence to hit the gym. So what can we do?

Chill out

Literally! It’s tempting to immerse yourself in a hot bath or shower when you’re feeling a bit nippy, but you could be doing more damage to your skin than you realise. Hot water strips your skin of its natural oils, leaving it parched and dehydrated. Your best bet is to stick to lukewarm temperatures and avoid staying in for too long. We recommend 10-15 minutes max (that’s no more than four songs on your Adele playlist for those who cite losing track of time as an excuse)!

Face time

While we’re on the subject of washing, it’s worth mentioning that your facial cleansing routine should be simplified alongside your bathing rituals. You’ll want to minimise the length of time that your face wash stays in contact with your skin. Half a minute should be enough to effectively tackle make-up and grime without leaving your visage tight and dry, but if your regular cleanser isn’t up to the task, toss it out in favour of a balm formula such as Trilogy’s Make-Up Be Gone Cleansing Balm (£20.50,

Switch it up

We hate to break it to you, but you’re beloved spring/summer lotion is no longer cutting it. It’s time to make the change from hydrating water-based formulas to a moisture-sealing oil-based product. A quick cheat guide? If it spills when tipped upside down, it’s definitely not rich enough for the winter.

Derm note: “If eczema and dermatitis is an issue, look for an intensive moisturising lotion that contains urea. This will help to gently exfoliate the flakes and hydrate the smooth skin underneath,” says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care.


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