Stay Active This Winter

— Written By Renay Knapp and last updated by Emily Capps
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Winter 2019 has had  us shivering and shaking, and the cold temperatures may have kept us indoors more than usual. While getting outside for fresh air, sunshine, and a little exercise is easier to do in warm weather, it is no less important in wintertime. Colder temperatures and fewer daylight hours keep us inside, eating too much and exercising too little. When we stop exercising because its too cold outside, winter weight gain can sneak up. An active routine that is maintained throughout the year is much better for weight control than intervals of starting and stopping from season to season.

There are a number of strategies to keep activity levels up during the winter months. If you prefer to avoid the harsh elements outdoors, consider the many indoor exercise options such as walking in a gymnasium, swimming in an indoor pool, working out with an exercise DVD, or using a stationary bike or treadmill. You can even set up a workout circuit in your own home. Run three laps around a pair of cushions placed on the floor five to ten feet apart; jump back and forth over a line (painter’s tape on the floor works great); do ten wall push-ups; then a cool-down stretch. You just had a 5-minute workout!

Keeping exercise “tools” out where you can see them will also encourage activity. An extra set of stress balls, stretch bands, and hand weights in your car or at the office can be used while sitting at a stoplight or at the computer. Hula hoops, jump ropes, badminton rackets, Frisbees, balls, and colored flags for flag football are great “tools” to have on hand for both children and adults. Homemade flash cards with pictures of animals, exercise moves, or games on them offer a quick and easy way to get moving. Just draw a card and act out the movement or game – i.e. hop like a frog or do ten sit-ups. Board games give you brain power, but if you’re looking for muscle power, try Charades, Twister, or Hyper Dash.

Enjoy watching TV? Each time commercials interrupt the show, hop off the sofa and get moving. Ask family members to take turns leading an activity during each commercial break whether its jumping jacks or the newest dance move. Speaking of dancing, its great exercise for any age. Teach your children or grandchildren some of your favorite dance steps like the Jitterbug or Electric Slide. And let your kids show you how to do the Dougie or the Wobble.

If you want to brave the weather, exercising outdoors offers even more benefit. The key to being active and comfortable in cold temperatures is dressing in layers. The layer next to your skin should provide support, the second layer provides warmth, and the outer layer protects against the elements. Your feet and hands will feel the cold first, so wear thermal gloves and socks. Also consider layering socks – a thin, tight fitting sock to wick away moisture under a thicker, insulating sock. Up to 40 percent of your body heat can be lost from the neck up during cold weather, so hats, headbands, and neckbands are necessary for maintaining body temperature.

Can’t stay outside in the cold for long periods of time? You don’t have to. Research shows that even 10-minute sessions of physical activity provide health benefit. Find ten minutes to be good to yourself – get up, get out, and get moving.