Winter is Coming
Nine Tips for Staying Active as the Temperature Drops
It’s tempting to just huddle by the fireplace and eat all the tasty treats that come your way during the holiday season, but there are plenty of ways to stay active in winter, through the holidays and beyond! It’s important to be prepared if you decide to step outside for cold-weather activities, but there are also plenty of ways to stay fit and active without having to brave the elements. Here are nine tips for staying active as the temperature drops.
Find a New Activity
Winter brings the opportunity to try so many new activities that can only be done in cold weather. Try skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, outdoor ice skating, sledding, tubing, ice fishing or snowmobiling. If being outside in the cold is not your thing, try a new indoor activity, like bowling, ballroom dancing, indoor rock climbing, or even hatchet-throwing. Even better, sign up for a class in one of these new activities. Committing ahead of time will ensure you follow through.
Dress for the Weather
So many of your normal outdoor exercise activities like hiking, biking, running and walking can be done all winter long if you wear the proper clothing. Innermost layers should be wool or a synthetic that wicks moisture away from the skin; avoid cotton because it stays wet. Mid-layers should be warm and insulating, like fleece, and outermost layers should be wind- and water-resistant. And remember, ears, fingers and toes are at the highest risk for frostbite, and when your extremities get cold, you’re going to feel colder all over. So, wear a hat or headband, along with gloves and warm socks.
When the days are shorter, it is obviously more of a challenge to fit in your workout out of doors. Try going right after you drop the kids off at school, or on your lunch break. However, if you can’t squeeze in your outdoor exercise during daylight hours and you choose to go out in the dark, be sure to wear reflective gear, like pants with reflective stripes or a running vest. A headlamp is also helpful to light your path and keep you visible to oncoming cars.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
UVB rays, which are the main cause of sunburn, are strongest in the summer, but they can damage your skin year-round. Snow and ice reflect UVB light, so the rays actually hit you twice, increasing your risk for skin cancer and premature aging even though you probably aren’t feeling the heat. Choose a broad-spectrum, sweat-proof sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher to protect you while you exercise.
Find an Indoor Pool
If the idea of doing a summer activity when there’s snow on the ground tickles your fancy, find an indoor pool – which is typically heated to a warm and inviting 82 degrees! - that offers lap swimming, water aerobics, or even an area to just walk or run in the water. All are great exercise, and donning your swimsuit when the temperatures drop is a fun way to boost your mood.
Check out the Mall
If you just can’t stomach the cold, try leaving the credit cards at home and using the local shopping mall as an indoor track. Many malls actually offer mall-walking programs, in which members can enter the mall early, before stores open, to get in their laps. If not, just visit during regular business hours. Wear comfy clothes and good, supportive walking shoes, track your steps, and take advantage of the climate-controlled environment, public restrooms and handy drinking fountains.
Do a Virtual Workout
If exercising out of doors isn’t for you and you want to stick with your exercise routine during the colder months, check out the many virtual exercise classes that became all the rage during the pandemic. They are readily available on the internet and on cell phone apps at every price point, including free! Designate an area of your house where you have room to lay out a yoga mat – that’s really all the space you need to do most exercises – and commit to doing a certain number of classes each week. Many apps will give you the chance to enter what type of exercise equipment you own and give you a workout based on that gear. Others require no equipment at all, which means no excuses!
During the cold winter months, we don’t feel as thirsty, and if you’re not thirsty, it’s unlikely you’ll consume enough water during exercise and throughout the day. In fact, colder weather can decrease our thirst response by up to 40%. Additionally, the weight of heavy winter boots and jackets makes your body work 10% to 40% harder than it normally does, which increases your sweat rate. And when you can “see your breath,” you’re actually watching fluid leave your body. So, even in winter, be sure to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day. That is, if you weight 150 pounds, aim for 75 ounces of water.
Give back this holiday season and stay active at the same time by volunteering to help your local community. Walk dogs or shovel snow for your elderly neighbors. Volunteer to walk the dogs at your local animal shelter, or to collect and deliver meals, food boxes or warm, winter clothes to those in need.