Don't Let Winter Slow You Down
Staying Active in the Colder Months
Isn't it ironic? During the season when we face the most temptation to overindulge our appetite, we are most likely to slow down and neglect our exercise program. Colder temperatures, rain and snow, fewer hours of daylight, a busy holiday schedule...all combine to push exercise to the bottom of our "to do" list.
But our need for exercise doesn't take a winter break. Study after study demonstrates that the prime factor for aging well is physical activity...and the winter weight gain and slowdown that many of us experience can be a challenge.
Weight gain isn't the only consequence for neglecting our fitness program in the colder months. People with a sedentary winter lifestyle are more at risk for....
But be assured...you can still remain fit by changing your routine for the season, and by taking a few simple health and safety precautions.
- Seasonal depression
- Infectious diseases
- Sleep problems
- Injury when resuming exercise in the spring
Continue Your Outdoor Activities
If walking, cycling or other outdoor activities are part of your fitness routine, with a few modifications and a little planning, you don't have to take a break during the cooler months. In all but the coldest days, keeping up a brisk pace will warm you up fast.
To safely continue your outdoor regimen for winter, also remember....
Your shoes should be waterproof, well-fitted, with good traction and ankle support. And keep feet dry and warm with the right socks.
- For comfort, dress right for cold temperatures and wind. Wearing several layers of water- and wind-resistant clothing is the best way to hold in body heat...and you can shed or add layers as you warm up and cool down. On coldest days, don't forget a hat or hood, gloves and scarf.
- If you wear rain gear, choose a fabric that "breathes." Sporting goods and outdoor wear stores feature a variety of high tech materials that repel water and block the wind, but let perspiration evaporate.
If you walk at dusk or after dark, make yourself more visible by wearing reflective clothing. Carry a flashlight. Be extra cautious when crossing streets remember, it is harder for drivers to see you.
Don't neglect your warm-up. A longer stretching phase and slower movements at the beginning of your workout help prevent muscle or tendon injury.
Avoid treacherous conditions that might trip you up, such as ice, slippery leaves and poorly lit walkways.
Dry, cold winter air can lead to dehydration, so drink plenty of water.
Sunblock and sunglasses are still important in the winter.
What About Indoor Opportunities?
When the weather is just too miserable or it's too dark, alternate with indoor fitness activities. This might be the year to....
- Join a gym
- Check out local senior fitness classes
- Take up mall walking, or go to an indoor track
- Take a swimming or water aerobics class at an indoor pool
- Invest in a treadmill or other home exercise equipment
- Work out at home with an exercise or tai chi video
As with any change in your fitness routine, check with your healthcare provider first.
Winter doesn't mean hibernation. You still should get 30 minutes or more of physical exercise, most days of the week. But with a little planning and preparation, you can continue to be active even in the winter months and feeling your best will provide its own motivation!
For more information....
The Mayo Clinic website's Exercise and Cold Weather: Stay Motivated, Fit and Safe offers good advice about layering your winter workout clothing.
The AARP website's Physical Activity section features several articles about winter fitness for seniors, including "Warming Up to Winter Sports," and "Stay Active with Off-Season Training."
For an overall review of senior fitness issues, see the online tutorial on the National Institutes of Health's Senior Health website.
2006 Caresource Healthcare Communications