Fitness First: Staying Active in Winter

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell December 15, 2009 19:32

Krista Howell

Winter is the season of hibernation and dormancy, which is great for wildlife and yards but not so good for humans.

This can be a very challenging time to stay on a regular exercise program. The days are short, holiday activities crowd our schedules, the weather is cold, wet and snowy, and arthritis kicks in, as do fears of falling on ice.

These are a few of the typical excuses that even I admit to using. But don’t feel bad if you’ve gotten off track and lost your motivation. Studies have proven that 30 percent of those who exercise regularly tend to skip it during the winter months.

Here are some great reasons to stay active in winter:

  • Exercise helps our immune system. Does the thought of the flu season scare you? It doesn’t have to. Exercise is a great way to boost your immune system. It doesn’t take much exercise to improve your immune system, but it has to be consistent. Just 20 minutes of aerobic activity (examples: walking, stationary biking, snow blowing) three times per week can make a difference.
  • It also improves balance. Falling is a serious concern made worse by icy conditions, so protect yourself with aerobic workouts and balance exercises.
  • Exercise soothes arthritic joints. Gentle exercise and stretching can really help relieve arthritic pain associated with cold weather.
  • It helps beat the winter blues. Depression is more common in winter, and exercise can boost feelings of emotional well-being.

So let’s make a plan. Here are some strategies to get you through this winter fit and healthy:

  • Write up a plan. Set some goals and be realistic. Being consistent with your exercise program is most important. Schedule exercise into your day. Make it a health priority.
  • Keep an exercise journal for accountability. Simply mark your calendar with an “X” for every day you exercise. There should be at least 15 marks per month. If you skip a session then write down your excuse.
  • Join an exercise class or club. This can break the boredom of a home exercise program.
  • Exercise at the same time every day. Routines are easier to live with.
  • Commit to walking with a friend regularly. Not only is it good exercise, but it’s an enjoyable way to remain close.
  • Ask your children to buy you a treadmill or stationary bike. This may sound funny, but tell your children that exercising every day for 20 minutes will keep you living independently for up to 20 more years. Exercise is proven to reduce the need for assisted living and long-term care.

The key to staying motivated during the winter is to create a plan that is convenient, interesting, and realistic. I’ve always seen the holidays as job security for exercise instructors, and January as the best month to get back on track.  I hope to see all my students back in January, and maybe a few new faces!

Exercise physiologist Krista Howell teaches senior fitness classes, and also supervises cardiac rehab patients for Sonora Regional Medical Center.

© 2009, Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell December 15, 2009 19:32
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