Top reasons Brits exercise less in winter including cold, dark, and wet weather

Cold, dark, and wet weather, and having less motivation, are among the top reasons why Brits exercise less in winter, a study has found.

Almost a third of Brits (31%) admit they are less active during the cold, winter months than at any other time of year, according to a poll of 2,000 adults.

More than one in three say they live a generally healthier lifestyle in the summer, exercising an average of four times a week during the warmer months.

And it emerged the top reason for the drop in activity during winter was due to the colder temperatures, according to almost three-quarters (72%) of those polled.

Almost half (49%) admit they find it more difficult to get out of bed during winter, with 57% put off by the dark mornings and evenings.

And one in four (24%) claim they have less energy – while 27% are worried about their safety when exercising alone in the dark.

The spring and autumn months were the most popular time of year to get in shape – with almost half (49%) wishing they could maintain the healthy mindset they adopt in warmer months across the cold, dark winters.

Andreas Michaelides, Ph.D., chief of psychology at Noom, the psychology-backed behaviour change programme, which commissioned the research, said: “For many, winter can play havoc with our intentions, causing us to exercise less or change our eating habits.

“Whether it’s the dark, the cold, stress, or tiredness, many external factors can impact our decision-making at this time of year.

“The data indicates that “hibernation mode” kicks in for almost one in five of us, and we often lose our motivation to maintain our routines compared to the summer months, due to barriers like the weather and holidays.

“Recognising how these internal and external factors impact you and your choices is just the first step to making truly informed decisions, enabling you to maintain a motivated mindset all year round.

“It’s also important to plan accordingly when you know you may experience situations that prevent you from achieving your health goals.

“Adapt your routine by going for a walk on a treadmill instead of running outside, or swapping your summer salad for a warming vegetable soup instead.”

The study, carried out via OnePoll, also found walking is the most common form of exercise undertaken by Brits throughout the year.

This was followed by running, cycling, and bodyweight exercises, such as press-ups and pull-ups – with 23% saying they enjoy exercising “a lot”.

But winter is a season for indulgence, with 40% enjoying more food in December than at any other time of the year, as temptations peak with Christmas parties and food-centred celebrations.

And 28% admitted they eat chocolate more frequently at this time of year.

More than one in five (22%) are also likely to order more takeaways, and 28% get through more packets of biscuits during the winter.

Andreas Michaelides, Ph.D. from Noom, added: “Thankfully, maintaining healthy habits over winter doesn’t mean banishing your favourite foods, or going on gruelling exercise routines – but rather, incorporating small, healthy habits here and there, that will lead to long-term, sustainable change.”


  1. It’s too cold
  2. It’s too dark
  3. It’s too wet
  4. You find it harder to motivate yourself
  5. You’re worried about safety when exercising in the dark outside
  6. You have less energy
  7. You’re more likely to pull a muscle or strain something because of the cold weather
  8. Hibernation mode kicks in – you’d rather stay in and watch TV
  9. You’re less body conscious in the winter as you wear more layers
  10. Costs are higher in winter due to running the heating, paying for Christmas etc. – so you want to save on gym membership


  1. Keep outdoor activities up. Increasing your Vitamin D intake is an effective way to manage low moods and energy levels impacted by winter weather. A great way to boost these levels is by getting outside as much as possible during the day to enjoy natural sunlight – you only need about 20-30 minutes. However, if you struggle to find time for walks during the shorter days, you can also get Vitamin D from foods such as salmon, mushrooms, and milk (including soy milk).
  2. Explore new places. Make winter exercise interesting and exciting, by exploring new locations, new formats, and new people to work out alongside. Take some time to research new trails or routes you haven’t been on before for a change of scenery during a run or walk. Encourage yourself to try new types of exercises, whether that’s yoga, running, or weight training, to keep practises interesting.
  3. Listen to summer music, all year round. We tend to curate summer-feeling, fun, and upbeat playlists to get us in the mood for summertime – but not the winter. Keep your feel-good music playing all year round, to ensure your motivation to get up and out is maintained through all seasons of the year.
  4. Stick to established routines. Maintaining a regular routine throughout all months of the year can be a really helpful way to keep a positive mindset all year round. Not only does it help you cement long-lasting healthy habits, it will have a particularly positive impact on your sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time has been proven to improve sleep quality. People who tend to struggle with their mood in the winter months, also struggle to sleep, and often have trouble getting up in the morning. The two are intrinsically linked.

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