Here’s how staying active fights the winter slump.

Shorter days, cold weather and grey skies are just a few of the ways winter can bring on the blues. Fortunately, working out is an easy way to fight back. An active lifestyle is critical to good health year-round, but fitness during the winter has a few special benefits that can help get you through the season.

1. Fitness warms you up

When it’s freezing outside, there are few things better than staying warm, and nothing warms you up faster than working out. As your muscles use energy during a workout, they produce heat. Your body then sweats as a way to regulate the extra heat. Working out can not only give you a break from feeling cold, but it can also help prevent muscle stiffness in the chilly weather.

2. Gets you out of the house

On cold, dark days, it’s tempting to stay inside and hide under a blanket, but too much isolation can take a toll on your emotional well-being. Fitness helps by getting you outside of your house and around other people — whether you’re jogging outside or working out at the gym. If you’re outdoors, there’s the added benefit of getting a small dose of Vitamin D from the sun.

3. Releases mood-lifting chemicals

The winter blues aren’t all in your head — they’re also in your blood. Mood-regulating hormones called endorphins can decrease in winter due to less sun exposure and lower activity, but working out combats the effect. Movement releases endorphins into your blood, which can lower your stress level, improve your mood and generally make you feel better.

4. Balances diet changes

Between comfort food and holiday treats, wintertime can mean consuming more calories than you would during other seasons. Working out can help burn off those calories and prevent any unintended weight gain that might lead to the winter blues.

5. Strengthens your immune system

Physical activity boosts your immune system by promoting the creation of white blood cells, making your body better able to resist common winter ailments like the cold or flu. Staying healthy will undoubtedly improve your mood during the winter.

6. Energizes your mind and body

It’s easy to get stuck in a winter rut of parking yourself on the couch. After prolonged inactivity, you may even start to feel sluggish and tired during the day, making it even harder to break the habit. Regular workouts can stave off a winter slump or help pull you out of it. For the same reasons fitness improves your mood, working out can release chemicals that leave you feeling alert and energized.

7. Improves performance for winter sports

If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, you know a day on the slopes can be physically taxing. Staying in shape throughout the winter can help you perform better and maintain more endurance during a long day, making your sports excursions more enjoyable. To get the most benefits, you can even perform a sports-specific workout that targets the muscles you use most in your favorite sport.

Fight the winter slump by maintaining a regular workout schedule and you should feel happier and less stressed until spring.