Ways to Stay Active As the Weather Gets Colder


To quote the popular Game of Thrones meme, “Winter is coming.”  The season of cold means warm hot cocoa, bulky comfortable clothing, and curling up under a blanket.  With the long nights and the cold weather, it can be easy to come up with excuses to avoid exercising.  But it is important to fight the temptation of winter hibernation.

Excuses, excuses

ccSkiingSlacking off on your exercise routine may seem appealing, but it isn’t a good idea to break your healthy habits.  Overindulging in holiday meals and treats can come back to haunt you in the form of a few extra pounds.  If you don’t keep on top of your fitness, you’ll be playing catch up once spring rolls around again.  Rebuilding your stamina and endurance is a time-consuming process.  If you keep going throughout the winter, there are fewer chances of backsliding.

There are a few common excuses that individuals cite as reasons why it is difficult to get motivated by winter exercise.  We’ll cover some of them and offer some suggestions to help you overcome them.

“It’s too dark out and I don’t like exercising in the dark.”

Going outside for a run or walk can be a pretty daunting proposition, especially when you’re going out by yourself.  One of the easiest solutions is to find a friend and make plans to meet up to go out together.  You’ll feel safer, have someone to talk to, and can hold each other accountable for any days missed.  If you don’t have any friends that you can meet up with, there are other avenues that you can pursue.  Active.com suggests using lightbulbs that simulate natural light, which can help you feel more ready for the day to come.  You could also use music as an alarm with energetic music to help get your day going.  Alternately, try finding a local gym, YMCA, or class where you can go to work out.

“It’s cold out.  Why get up when I can stay under my nice warm blanket?”

The cold can be quite insidious, leaving us yearning for the warm comfort of our beds.  However, it doesn’t have to prevent you from getting out of bed in the morning.  Using a heater or your thermostat, start warming your room before your alarm goes off.  That way, your room is a comfortable temperature.  Lifestyle.com also suggests putting your work-out clothes near your your bed so you don’t have to go far before slipping into them.  Don’t forget to dress appropriately for your exercise.  Dress yourself in layers for maximum warmth, but don’t wear so much that you restrict your movement.  Wear waterproof outer layers to keep you dry.  A hat, mittens, socks, and scarf made of wool or polypropylene will keep you warm, even if you get wet.  Shoes are also important, as you want them to be waterproof and not too confining.

“I don’t want to catch a cold.”

At this point, we all know that this is an old tale.  We get sick because of viruses and bacteria.  What you might not know that is exercising can actually help keep you from getting sick.  According to Deborah Quilter, on Everyday Health, “Staying active in the winter boosts immunity by keeping the lymphatic system active – as long as you don’t overtrain, which has the opposite effect.”  Don’t let this flimsy excuse bog you down.

“I just don’t feel motivated.”

skatingWell, this one can strike all year-round.  But it is particularly dangerous during the winter, when there are a host of other excuses you can lump in with it.  Just like any other time of you, you need to find ways to keep you motivated.  One way you can do that is by setting goals for yourself.  It gives you something to work toward, or a challenge to overcome.  And a little self-reward when you reach a goal doesn’t hurt, so long as you don’t go overboard.  It might help to do plan out your goals and post them in a place where you can see them.

Get Out There!

If you can overcome your excuses, you can find ways to be active over the winter.  You’ll have to worry about snow and ice, but with a little care and preparation, those become less of a concern.  So what are different things you can do to start and continue a fitness routine?

  1. Get walking.  Whatever your fitness level, going for a walk is a great way to burn calories.  From a brisk walk to a more leisurely stroll, walking can be a great cardio workout.  Everyday Health recommends doing some stretches before heading out and walking more slowly for the first few minutes of your walk.  If you want to make it a bit more visually interesting, go walking around the mall or on a prairie path.
  2. Exercise tapes.  I know, I know.  You’re probably remembering the Jane Fonda or Richard Simmons workout tapes.  But I’m not talking about “Sweating to the Oldies” here.  Depending on what you’re interested in doing, workout videos can be pretty intensive if you follow them.  I remember doing some in high school and they definitely were a good workout.  If you don’t have any DVDs, then you can find workout videos online.  Stationary bikes or resistance training machines at home can also be decent alternatives, but I’m a fan of free weights.  Free weights are especially great because you can exercise with them while doing other things, like watching a show or listening to music.
  3. Yard work and chores.  Nobody really gets excited about raking leaves, shoveling snow, or cleaning the kitchen.  Depending on where you live, they are necessary parts of home ownership.  Instead of complaining about them, look at them as opportunities for exercise!  Shoveling, for example, is a great exercise.  Household chores can be used for exercise, too.  Don’t hold off on spring cleaning until spring.  Do the heavy lifting and sorting now so that you can get back to regular routine once the weather warm.  It’ll also give a sense of accomplishment.
  4. Playing outside.  Exercise doesn’t have to be a boring chore.  The more you treat it as such, the less you’ll want to do it.  But if you’ve got leaves raked or snow shoveled why not be a kid again for a little bit?  Jump in the leaves and enjoy yourself.  Have a snowball fight or build a snowman!  Spark People reports that a vigorous snowball fight can burn as many as 320 calories per hour.  If you’re not into those, why not try your hand at something like skiing, snowboarding, or skating?  Learning a new skill will help keep you interested.
  5. Slower activities.  Cardio exercises that raise your heartrate are great, but sometimes you just need something a little slower.  If that’s the case, why not try yoga, pilates, or tai chi?  Because they work at a slower pace and focus on breathing over an elevated heartrate, these activities can help you relax.  They can help you build your strength and increase your flexibility, which can lend themselves to other exercises.

These are just a few things that you can do to stay fit during the winter months.  Every season has its challenges, but don’t let the chill stop you.  Brave the dark and conquer the cold, but winter is no barrier to a healthy you!

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