As autumn's curtain falls and winter takes center stage, the threat of harsh temperatures, icy conditions, and less sunlight breeds a new list of excuses for why we can't exercise. Winter weather can, at times, be unsafe for exercising and even the avid walker/jogger can lose a little of that fitness determination when winter winds bluster and add windchill to already cold temps. So what's a person to do? Especially those who aren't already thrilled with the discipline of exercise, in the first place. No, the answer is not to crawl inside your Snuggie and become a couch cocoon until spring.
Just because its winter doesn't mean you have to hibernate from the habit of exercise. Winter workouts can be done inside or outside depending on the weather. All it takes is some common sense. For instance, you don't need to go out for an after-work jog, if temperatures are dropping and icing threatens to make footing precarious. Stay safe, and opt for indoor activities when the weather isn't conducive to outdoor routines.
Outdoor winter workouts like snowboarding and downhill skiing are fun ways to stay in shape and have fun. They make for great exercise for the weekend or a day off, but for most of us, those activities don't fit into a regular workout regime. Don't despair, if you're looking for an everyday type routine, consider these options:
Dress for the Weather
Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you can walk, jog, or enjoy the outdoors while being active. Watching those big wet snowflakes fall and melt against the pavement can be exhilarating! Be sure to dress in layers to avoid overheating with the top layer being waterproof and the layer next to your body made of fabric that wicks moisture away from the skin. Also take steps to protect your ears, hands, and feet.
Ways to Burn Calories in the Cold
- Ice Skating
- Shovel Snow
- Cross-Country Skiing
Walking/jogging on a treadmill: It's no surprise that the treadmill would be at the top of the list for indoor winter workouts. Many of today's treadmills make it less tedious with features like electronic programming, heart rate monitors, and console gadgets. However, before you go for all the bells and whistles, consider the added price and what happens if one of the gadgets stop working? It might be better to buy those items separately.
Royal Canadian Air Force Exercises: I've reverted back to this exercise routine for years. It's fast, and I mean fast. To move up to the next level, you have to complete the exercises in 12 minutes. Each level has you doing more, but the goal is to always finish in 12 minutes for women or 11 minutes for men. Exercise movements target flexibility, all the muscle groups, and cardiovascular. The downside is some of the exercises are outdated, and this book went out of print. However, plenty of copies can be found on Amazon or online at no charge.
Exercise Ball: Also known as a fitness ball or stability ball, the exercise ball can be used to work the entire body. It is important to use a properly inflated ball that is right for your weight and size.
Wii Fit: The Wii Fit is another option to keep you active during the winter months. This system weighs you, tracks your BMI, and lets you know how many calories you've burned. The downside for some is that the exercises are not very strenuous, but that is an upside for others. At least it keeps you off the couch. If you enjoy the Wii, you can always up the calories burned by tweaking the activity. For instance, when I Wii bowl, I add windmill toe touches for each strike, to be done while the replay is shown. If I don't get a strike, I usually add a fat burning march in place, or target my obliques with side bends.
Exercising in Cold Weather
If you do decide to take your winter workouts outside there are a few things to take into consideration. For instance, Mayo Clinic warns that a doctor should be consulted before exercising in cold weather if you have certain conditions including: asthma, heart problems or Raynaud's disease. In fact, before you start any exercise program, talk with your doctor first.
Stay safe, stay warm, and stay fit!