The impact of winter on women’s wellbeing

Do you find it harder to maintain your health and wellbeing in the winter months? If so, you’re certainly not alone – a survey conducted by Garmin showed that 70% of women say their overall wellbeing is worse in winter. This is down to a multitude of factors, including doing less exercise, concerns around personal safety, and poorer mental health. In this blog, we look at these issues in more detail and have some top tips to help you boost your wellbeing this winter.

How winter impacts on women’s wellbeing

The Garmin survey (conducted in November 2021) found that more than two thirds of women (68%) find their exercise routines negatively impacted during winter, in comparison to summer months. This is in part due to the darker mornings and evenings, as well as the colder temperatures. Around 42% of women also said they put their reluctance to exercise down to a general feeling of lethargy. Personal safety concerns around exercising outside on darker mornings and evenings can also have an impact. The research showed that 51% of women are scared for their safety while exercising during these months.

Many of us also feel a decline in our mental health during the winter months. We’re outside less than usual and don’t get as much light, which can directly influence the way we feel. Two fifths of the women surveyed agreed that their mental health was disrupted during the winter months. Women also identified feeling more stressed over winter, as well as having less sleep – both factors that can have a negative effect on our mental health.

GP and Garmin Ambassador Dr Zoe Williams explains a little about why women might struggle more with their health and wellbeing during the winter: “As a GP, I’m not shocked that women struggle more with their wellbeing during the winter. In fact, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is significantly more prevalent in women than men. One biological hypothesis is that women’s fluctuating hormone levels play a role. Certain stages of our menstrual cycle can put us at a low ebb and those experiencing perimenopause or menopause often have numerous symptoms. When you then add in the effects of winter, such as the fact that reduced sunlight can affect serotonin (the happy hormone) levels, then you can see why these hormonal fluctuations impact us more. Equally, as women we juggle a lot – from work to childcare to caring for older relatives. While we are arguably the more resilient sex, all of this can leave our tanks empty, which leaves us less able to cope with the added biological stress.”

Tips to boost your wellbeing in winter

If you’re reading this and nodding, saying ‘This is me!’ then you might be wondering what you can do to help boost your wellbeing during these winter months.

It’s important that you carve out some time each day to do something to help your mental health. We all know that running, as well as all forms of exercise, can be a great mood booster. If you don’t feel safe or comfortable running outdoors in the darker, colder weather, consider using a treadmill in your local gym, or asking a friend to join you for company. You can also get smart running watches with built-in safety features that can help you feel a little more confident – see Garmin’s wearables for women range.

It doesn’t have to be running, though. Any form of exercise can have the same mood-lifting effect – from a gentle yoga stretch to refreshing walk to a swim. And if you really don’t feel like exercising, maybe try a different form of self-care instead, supporting your wellbeing by doing something you enjoy.

Dr Zoe Williams agrees, advising women to carve out at least 10 minutes each day to do something that need to make them feel happy: “There will never be one approach that suits everyone for feeling better at this time of year. So my advice is to sit down and think about what makes you feel better personally. Perhaps it’s exercise, meditation, or even grabbing coffee and having a chat with a friend. Work out what it is that makes you feel good and then carve out some time in your day for it – and don’t negotiate on it! Make that your pledge to yourself and see that time as a gift you’ve given to you. It’ll help you become more resilient in other areas, and you’ll find yourself much better off longer term.”

It can be difficult in our busy lives to find this time for ourselves, but it’s important to prioritise your own wellbeing. Have a look at your daily schedule and see where you can fit in time to do something for yourself. Write down these activities on your calendar and give them the same priority you would a work meeting or appointment, for example.

By making a few tweaks to your routine and incorporating some time for yourself, you will hopefully start to see an uplift in your health and wellbeing. And remember, spring is just around the corner, with warmer days and lighter evenings.

This article was written by Run Mummy Run in conjunction with our Family Partner Garmin as part of a Paid Partnership. Find out more about our Partners here.

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