Why it is important to exercise and eat well this winter

With the summer weather noticeably behind us, you may find it harder to keep up with your regular exercise regime or eat a well-balanced diet. Neglecting those healthy habits can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight – and some research has suggested that winter weight gain may stick around into summer too.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found adults gained about half a kilogram of weight over winter that was not lost during the spring or summer months.

Although half a kilogram of weight gain may not seem like much, over time these constant weight gains can increase your risk for developing high blood cholesterol levels, affecting your long-term health. 

Healthy cholesterol and healthy weight management

Developing high cholesterol depends on a combination of risk factors from both the environment and your family history. Your environment includes what you eat and how much you exercise.

Although you may be unable to control your genes, you can try to achieve healthy weight to reduce your chance of high cholesterol.

How does high cholesterol affect your health?

Cholesterol is an essential fat carried in your blood stream throughout your body to help build cells, make hormones, produce vitamin D and help digestion. Your body relies on healthy levels of total cholesterol in your blood, which is measured by the amounts of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Having higher than recommended levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, in your blood may lead to poor heart health.

Over time, if LDL cholesterol levels are high it may build up in the walls of your arteries making them narrow and leading to less blood flow to the heart.

How to  maintain a healthy weight in winter

Be conscious of the food you eat

Comfort eating is common during the winter. Your LDL cholesterol levels can be directly influenced by the food you eat, with some foods naturally high in cholesterol such as eggs, high fat meats and cheese.

Make sure you also avoid eating a diet high in saturated fats or trans fats, such as deep-fried, processed or baked foods, to keep your LDL cholesterol levels low. Try to use healthy oils in cooking, such as vegetable oil or those that are higher in omega-3.

You can also try to  maintain healthy LDL cholesterol levels by eating foods high in soluble fibre, such as whole grains. These foods are more likely to be foods that can swell and hold water so you may feel fuller for longer and less likely to want to eat more.

Find an enjoyable winter physical activity

Increased levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood can also come from a lack of exercise. However, the good news is increased physical activity can help to increase levels of HDL cholesterol in your blood, which is considered ‘good’ cholesterol.

Increased levels of HDL cholesterol can remove the higher levels of LDL cholesterol from your arteries, transporting them to your liver to break down and pass from your body.

As little as 30 minutes a day of exercise has been found to raise HDL and lower LDL cholesterol. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start by taking slow walks around the block and build up to short runs. Alternatively, ask your friends to participate in a group sport or indoor sports club with you. Exercise doesn’t have to mean sweating it out at the gym – even moving moderately can make a huge difference to your health.

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