By Nathan Burke, BS. CPT.
There comes a time of year, especially in Ohio, where the weather changes. Clouds grow ominous, leaves are off the trees, snow falls from the sky along with rain at times and frost appears on the car windows in the early mornings. What does all this mean? Well it means it is now winter in Ohio and these changes are what is expected for 5-6 months out of the year. It also means it is a time for scarves, coats, gloves, winter hats, ear muffs, and snow boots as each Ohioan braces themselves for the long, cold months ahead. Many people tend to want to hibernate during these months. They feel it is a time to relax inside and gain some weight with the rationale that it’s winter and they need to put on fat to keep warm. That is a huge excuse that is always being tossed around.
What about the months when you are active and fit, and like to show off your looks with a bathing suit, tank top and sandals? You shouldn’t change your goals just because it is cold outside and it’s tempting to want to stay inside and keep warm. Many people feel depressed when the weather is really cold. It causes the mind to drift to a place with no motivation and a lack of desire to be active. It is also a time where many people develop winter illnesses. With all of this being said, how would it feel to know that you can stay active, physically fit and healthy during the winter months? Just because it’s cold and snowy doesn’t mean you can’t be active outside and engage in many activities. There are many indoor and outdoor activities to participate in during the cold months.
As far as indoors is concerned, you don’t necessarily need to have access to a recreational fitness center to be active. If you do, you can jog the indoor track, hop on the treadmill, and engage in resistance exercises using dumbbells, barbells and machines. As long as you are getting the blood flowing, your muscles are being engaged, your heart rate is up, you are establishing a good breathing pattern and getting a little sweat on, you are doing a great job stimulating the body to “work.” Most people would rather be home with a blanket and hot chocolate. Not that you can’t and shouldn’t be comfortable, there is no reason you can’t stay and active and get your workout in for the day before you relax.
If you don’t have access to a fitness facility, then creativity needs to come into play. Use your mind and imagination to create your own workout in the comfort of your home using basic household items. For access to dumbbells, just reach in your kitchen cabinet and grab a couple of cans of soup to use as weights. You can do shoulder presses, lateral raises, curls, squats, etc. Want to do some back exercises but don’t have a pull up bar in your house? No problem. Place a broomstick on two chairs about a foot apart. You can lie underneath and do a modified pull up by pulling your chest to the broomstick, getting the benefit of a regular pull up you would do in a gym. Since you are inside and want to be entertained while exercising, feel free to turn on a favorite TV show or put on some music to enjoy the activities. This is also a good time to really keep your home clean and get that heart rate up by sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, doing laundry, and if you normally do these household chores at a slow pace, try going faster to increase that heart rate and make it a cardiovascular workout.
Now if you do like to be out of your home and go to a gym or any other indoor facility, there are a wide range of exercises. Perhaps one of the best indoor activities you could do is play basketball. Basketball is an all around great activity that gets the heart rate up using speed, jumping ability, and agility. It’s competitive as well, especially when playing with a group of friends. There are many exercises to focus on each body part, such as situps with a medicine ball, pushups, walking lunges, and running up and down stairs. You can even challenge others by having a race. The indoors offer so much variety; get involved in sports leagues in your community or at work. Many cities offer indoor basketball, volleyball, soccer, or swimming. Don’t limit yourself to one activity. Get involved in many of them and expand your horizons. Again, it’s all about enjoying it and having fun as well. That’s the most important aspect.
There are many people who really do still like being outdoors and staying active even during the winter months. Since it is cold, it’s vitally crucial to dress for the cold weather while you are outside. It’s important to make sure clothes fit well, and keep you warm and dry. A warm hat and scarf for the head, ears and neck are best. It is also better to wear layers of thin clothing rather than thick layers due to the better insulation several thin layers provide. It’s also a good idea to wear clothing made of wool or polyproplyene. This will prevent body heat from being lost even when the fabric gets wet from the rain or snow. Wool socks and waterproof shoes or boots would be best for your feet.
Creativity is also helpful for outdoors as well. Being outside, there is access to a lot of props and things to use. One exercise that is really beneficial and a good functional movement is tire flips. Another exercise that can take the place of kettlebell swings are swings using cement cinder blocks. You can also partner with a friend using a resistance band. With one person having the band around their waist, they begin to run while the other person runs behind holding the band and applying resistance. This is a great way to make running and sprinting more creative and fun at the same time. There are numerous activities to do with a group of people, such as football, skiing, snowboarding, and hiking. Sled riding is a great activity with large steep hills to make you work even harder as you walk back up to the top.
Another way to get in more cardio and burn calories is when you go to a store, make sure you purposely park far away from the entrance so you can do more walking. This will allow some extra cardio and burn calories. Always remember that there is such a variety of ways to turn even the most basic daily task into a workout activity. Remember safety as well. Try to do your walking and other activities when it is light out. Use your lunch break or do family activities when the kids get out of school. If it’s dark out, walk with a friend.
A key aspect to all activity is what you put in your body. During the cold winter months, the immune system can easily become compromised. It’s critical to take extra precautions to make sure you stay healthy while being involved in outdoor activities. Green tea is often noted as the miracle drink for your mug. That’s especially true with people’s busy holiday schedules. Drinking green tea regularly has been shown to help increase metabolism and use fat from fat stores for energy. Because of its antioxidant properties, it’s been shown to combat free radicals. Several studies have shown that green tea has antiviral properties. One study found that taking green tea catechin helped prevent health care workers from catching the flu. Another study found that Japanese children who drank green tea for six days a week or more were less likely to catch the flu. Green tea is also very soothing and can help increase relaxation and enhance mood.
This is also a good time to increase your intake of vitamins C, E, and D3. All of these vitamins boost the immune system. Vitamin D3 may be the most significant due to the fact that it is from the sun and many people lack this vitamin during the winter months. Always be sure to stop and call your doctor if you have chest pain or feel dizzy during any physical activity. If you have any breathing issues like asthma or COPD, consult with your doctor before engaging in activities in the cold weather.
During the cold winter weather months, it is important to know that you can be involved in many activities both indoors and outdoors. Use your creative mind to discover different exercises and activities so there is no excuse to just sit at home and hibernate. With so many options available, you can enjoy the winter, stay active and be healthy all while having fun and getting the best out of you.
Stay Active in the Winter