Fitness

Staying Fit in Winter

Last updated: Feb 29, 2016

If you’re like many people, you might find it more difficult to maintain your fitness routine in the winter months compared with warmer seasons. That’s because fewer daylight hours and the cold temperatures make many of us feel more like curling up by a fire than working out.

But in addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight and muscle tone, maintaining your fitness in the winter can help guard against other common winter-related conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).1

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, 14 percent of people in the United States experience SAD.1 The good news is, research shows that many people can manage or avoid SAD with 30 to 60 minutes of exercise and 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight each day.2 These figures emphasize the importance of exercising throughout the winter, especially if your goal is health and well-being as well as a trim waistline.

Try these tips to stay in tiptop shape despite winter:

  • Revise your fitness schedule
    If you find the cold dark mornings and early onset of evening a deterrent for exercise, try exercising outside midday, during your lunch hour, or between noon and 4 PM. The exposure to sunlight can help increase your vitamin D levels and boost your mood. Exercising at the gym during these hours also can do wonders for your fitness and mood
  • Dress for your activity
    Layer clothes for warmth and comfort. Wear fast-drying fabrics such as polyester blends that wick away moisture and help keep you warm. Be sure your shoes fit, are made for the activity you’ve chosen, and have nonslip soles
  • Establish inclement weather alternatives
    Exercise videos and indoor exercise equipment such as flexibility bands, a stability ball, free weights, treadmill, elliptical trainer, and stationary bicycle can keep your at-home fitness routine going when you’re snowbound
  • Engage your friends, pets, and kids for fitness activities
    Share walking, jogging, running, and exercise classes with a buddy. The sociability will make exercising less of a chore and the togetherness can build relationships
  • Get outside to walk, jog, run, snowshoe, or cross country ski
    The exposure to sunlight can increase your vitamin D levels and boost your mood
  • Use trekking poles for stability if you’re walking on snowy paths
  • Join a gym, take new classes such as aerobics, kettle bell training, yoga, dance, a tennis clinic, or CrossFit, and enlist the services of a personal trainer
  • Adjust your eating to accommodate less frequent or less vigorous workouts
    If you’re less active during the cold months, cutting back on your calories can help stabilize your weight until spring breezes tempt you to be more active again

As always, talk with your Summit Medical Group practitioner before beginning a new or increasing the intensity of your current exercise routine.

References

  1. Rosenthal NE. Winter blues: everything you need to know to beat seasonal affective disorder. New York, NY: Guilford Press; 2006.
  2. Howland RH. An overview of seasonal affective disorder and its treatment options. Phys Sportsmed. 2009;37(4):104-115.      
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