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Staying Active During the Winter

Staying Active During the Winter

If you're in the Northeast United States, as we are, or any other region typically afflicted with snow and freezing cold during the winter, you know how difficult it is to keep motivated when the temperature goes down and the wind picks up. But with a little planning, you can incorporate activity into your life in a way that doesn't cause you to brave the elements with too much abandon. Trust us: if Jamaica can produce a bobsled team, we can find accessible winter activities in a cold climate.

Why Stay Active?

It seems like an obvious question: why stay active in a climate that seems to demand hibernation? We sympathize, and that's not just because we spent our formative years watching Yogi Bear. Busy lives and the volatile nature of winter weather can disrupt the best-planned exercise regimen. But there are plenty of reasons to stay active that will make the winter more enjoyable and comfortable:

  • Immune Health: Regular exercise strengthens your immune system. You may have had your flu shot, but plenty of other illnesses make the rounds during the winter.
  • Fresh Air: People extol the virtues of fresh air so often it seems like an old wives' tale, but one of the reasons for winter sickness is more time spent indoors in close quarters with people spreading germs.
  • Managing Weight: Between a more sedentary lifestyle and overeating prompted by a drop in body temperature, people routinely gain weight during the winter.
  • Sunlight: Like fresh air, the benefits of sunlight seem abstract, but the sun is the best source of Vitamin D, which increases bone density and supports immune functioning. In addition, sunlight can help regulate your circadian rhythm and boost serotonin production, helping to fight seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Winter Snow Outdoor Activities Staying Active Exercise

Staying Active Outdoors

We promise we'll list some indoor activities, but there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities during the winter that will help you get that sunlight and fresh air. Not to mention that the cold, although uncomfortable, is beneficial: people burn five times more energy when shivering. And while snow and ice may impact mobility, many of these are accessible to people of most physical situations.

Here are some outdoors ideas!

  • Shoveling Snow: We're having fun already! But an outside chore like clearing snow is something that's necessary and will keep you moving with a goal. So instead of using a snowblower, try the traditional method.
  • Walking Your Dog: This is technically a chore, but it's really hard call it a duty after you've seen a dog play in the snow. Instead of keeping your pet on a chain attached to the house, get some exercise for both of you. Dogs are inherently fun and make a winter walk more enjoyable.
  • Brisk Walks or Hikes: Even regular runners dread the winter, as the cold air can irritate your airways. So why not slow it down? Go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood or hike on a safe trail, and enjoy the holiday decorations or winter scenery.
  • Snowshoes: An overlooked form of winter exercise, snowshoes are low-impact and help build muscle, endurance, and balance while burning even more calories than running or cross-country skiing at the same pace. Snowshoes are also easy to master, and make a great potential gateway activity for people getting back in the habit of staying active.
  • Snow Sprints: If you've got a grassy field near you with freshly fallen snow (for instance, a park or high school sports field), it's a great place to work out that's typically free of slippery ice. Sprints, walking lunges, jogging, jumping, or just playing in the snow tends to burn additional calories due to the work your muscles are doing to stabilize your steps.
  • Other Outdoor Sports: For those who exercise more routinely, winter can help you up your challenge level, whether by adapting your normal workouts to cold weather or incorporating new elements. Running in winter is a notable challenge, as are cross-country skiing, ice skating, and hockey.

Winter Snow Outdoor Activities Staying Active Exercise

Staying Warm and Safe

We'd be remiss if we didn't discuss that outdoor activity in the winter can produce unique challenges. Sidewalks and roads can get icy, making walking or travel hazardous. Cold air can irritate the airways, additionally troublesome if you have a respiratory disease like asthma. The cold can lead to hypothermia, and lack of thirst can cause you to neglect water, leading to dehydration. This isn't mean to keep you inside boarding up the windows, though; just being mindful of the conditions around you will help keep you safe. And ultimately your safety is even more important than staying active.

A few things to remember:

  • Stay Hydrated: You won't be as thirsty in cold weather, but you still need water. Drink some regularly when active.
  • Stay Warm: Exercise will heat you up more effectively than anything else in winter, but don't overcompensate by under-dressing. Make sure you're still wearing layers, water-resistant footwear, a scarf or bandana around your mouth to warm the incoming air, and proper winter clothes. If you're hiking or in a less populated area, keep an emergency blanket or other warming products on hand just in case.
  • Stay Indoors When Necessary: If conditions are icy, don't feel bad about staying inside! The key to winter activity is adaptability to weather. We've got a whole host of ideas for indoor activities, so don't feel obligated to get outdoors when it doesn't look safe.

Winter Snow Outdoor Activities Staying Active Exercise

Staying Active Indoors

This is probably the section you were waiting for, right? Although we'd like to stress that going outside is pretty great for you, some days it's just not feasible. For these days, many people rely on the gym or home equipment, but exercising indoors doesn't have to be an expensive proposition. Although we're going to suggest some things that require a membership or purchase, there are ways to modify your existing life or environment to get moving. And developing a new routine is the surest way to stay active. Life changes are hard to maintain, as many unused gym memberships will attest. Making small changes to your life and gradually incorporating more into your routine is an easier way to improve your lifestyle than that New Year's resolution.

Here are some indoors ideas!

  • Stairs: We like to lead off with the fun ones. Stairs are readily available indoors, whether in your house, apartment building, or workplace, and walking them makes a convenient workout that's also incredibly adaptable. You can raise the intensity by adding walking intervals each floor, climbing two steps at a time, or adding other easy workouts like jumping jacks and push-ups between floors.
  • Dancing: On the subject of tricking yourself into moving, it's really hard to beat dancing, which is available anywhere. This one's harder to stabilize into a routine than climbing stairs, but you can get 15-20 minutes of cardio activity with just 3 to 5 of your favorite songs.
  • Mall Walking: It doesn't have to be a mall, of course. Any public, indoor venue with enough space, from indoor farmers markets to convention centers, can provide you with a warm environment and stable walking surface.
  • Home Workouts: You don't have to buy an expensive machine to get a good workout at home. Equipment such as stretch bands and stability balls are affordable for most. A good yoga mat or workout mat is relatively inexpensive, and there's an embarrassment of riches out there for workout DVDs and online videos. You should have no trouble finding an exercise regimen that's ideal for your activity and mobility levels.
  • The Classics: Gym memberships and home workout equipment like treadmills and stair climbers can be expensive, but if you're in the habit of staying active, they can be a great investment. We tend to suggest finding what works for you before making this kind of commitment, but when you're ready, these can open up a world of new exercise possibilities.
  • Indoor Sports and Classes: These might be a nice middle ground while you're on your way to getting that full gym membership. Participating in a recreational sports program for adults, or taking an aerobics, spin (indoor cycling), or yoga class can help you move up to the next level of incorporating activity into your life while giving you a great social outlet in the process!

No matter your typical level of activity and mobility, there are still ways available to get yourself moving during the winter. Incorporating many different ones will not only help you find what works best for you all year round, but also give you options to keep your activity level up no matter how hard the snow is falling or how low the temperature drops. Although it may be tempting to be a winter shut-in, the challenges of the season are also opportunities for staying healthy, meeting people, and improving your mood and quality of life.

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