Why running is the perfect weight loss workout to beat the January blues

Running and walking might be last on your list of things to do in the cold, short days, but they're the best exercises for winter

Woman running to get fit in sunshine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

January is often miserable, which can make starting a weight loss journey in the new year very difficult indeed. With a lack of sunlight and little to look forward to, we want to stay cozy and comfortable on cold days, not wrapping up for a run, cycle, walk or trek to the gym. 

January is also considered one of the most difficult months of the year from a mental health standpoint, as the back half of a dark few months begin to take its toll on people suffering from SAD. However, that's exactly why it's so important to get out and do some exercise this month, lacing up the best running shoes for men or best running shoes for women: because of the mood-boosting benefits. 

Running and walking, in particular, are great for this, as there's a whole raft of research linking steady-state exercise, even out in the cold, to an improved sense of well-being. 

For starters, there's the fabled "runner's high" which is a release provided by your body after a long period of strenuous exercise. Research published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology has found running reduces anxiety by stimulating the production of mood-altering endocannabinoids in the body (not endorphins as previously thought) and induces feelings of euphoria. 

Man exercise

(Image credit: Christopher Campbell/Unsplash)

Never experienced this one? Lace up those running shoes – or if you're just starting your fitness journey, your best shoes for walking – and step into the great outdoors. Even if it's cold, you'll feel the benefits, and in fact, it may actually help with your mood-improvement quest. Research from Georgia State University actually found its easier to run in the cold. 

Not only that, but running and walking get you out of the house and into the fresh air, so that you can literally move forward towards your fitness goals. Bonus points if you can find a park, or a field, or a lake, river, beach, or nature of any kind – most cities will at least have a park within walking or running distance. Harvard University found that simply being in nature for just 20 minutes is enough to lower your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Plus, getting outside during the daytime increases your vitamin D levels, which correlate to mood.

It doesn't matter whether you're an experienced runner, or you've only just started walking to lose weight: it's all valid, and the only thing that matters is how much better you feel, in both mind and body. However, if you simply must exercise indoors, you could do a lot worse than our best exercise machines to lose weight list

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.