Fitness and Health

How Professionals with Fitness and Health Training Can Help Clients Battle the Winter Blues

November 02, 2020

Fitness and Health TrainingWhile there are many benefits of exercise, staying active can also play a more significant role than just improving one’s fitness. During the often brutal and lengthy Canadian winters, when the days are shorter and colder and we tend to get outdoors less, exercise can play a crucial role in keeping one’s mental health in check. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes known as seasonal depression, is a cyclical condition in which one experiences an onset of depression during the winter months. SAD is often thought to be brought on by lower levels of exposure to sunlight. Sunlight supplies us with vitamin D and is proven to bring beneficial effects to one’s mood, and without it, some individuals may be more susceptible to depression. 

While exercise is by no means a cure for seasonal depression, it can play an important role in helping to fight against its effects. If you’re training to become a fitness consultant, a personal trainer, or a health coach, you might want to be aware of how you can help clients use exercise to counter the effects of seasonal depression–in order to get through those winter months as healthily as possible.

Those in Fitness and Health Training Should Know the Effects of SAD

About 17-18% of Canadians will experience either SAD or a milder form of seasonal depression in their lifetimes. The lack of sunlight exposure in the winter months can have different effects on different people. However, SAD is largely characterized by symptoms such as sluggishness, sleeping more, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite or weight, loss of interest in activities or social engagements, and feelings of shame, sorrow, or general apathy. If you’re in fitness and health training, you might be able to recommend or adapt an exercise and health regimen to support clients during such times.

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People often suffer from seasonal affective disorder during the winter months

How Can Exercise Fight Against Symptoms of SAD?

While exercise is not a cure for seasonal depression, it can produce many beneficial effects to help those impacted. A study done by Harvard University found that committing to four hours of exercise each week can help those with SAD. In a study of 8,000 participants, those who regularly exercised were 17% less likely to experience depressive episodes in the future. Exercise releases endorphins and serotonin, chemicals proven to improve our mood.

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As a fitness and health professional, you can help clients stay active during the winter months

What Can You Do as a Fitness and Health Professional?

Upon graduating from fitness and health school, you’ll be prepared to become a Certified Personal Trainer or a Certified Health Coach, qualified to advise and educate clients on nutrition and exercise and design programs to suit individual needs. When advising a client with symptoms of seasonal depression, it’s important to encourage them to exercise as a way to feel better and stay healthy. Exercising aerobically, anywhere from 30-60 minutes a day, can serve to fight against the effects of seasonal depression. Depending on your client’s fitness level, recommend an exercise routine that works for them and help them make a plan to stay motivated. Be sure to include tips for a healthy diet, which also serves to benefit mental health. 

While exercise is a great way to boost a person’s mood and fight against the effects of seasonal affective disorder, it’s important to remember that clients should seek professional help if exercise alone is not working against their depressive symptoms. In more serious cases, light therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, or antidepressants may be considered by their health professional.  

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Check out Medix College’s fitness and health courses today.

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