It’s getting colder. If you’ve gained momentum in feeling healthy over the summer, don’t let the cold weather stop it. You can stay active in cold weather this year. We’ve got 8 great ideas to help you power through these winter months.
But why is it important?
First, it’s common for anyone trying to lose weight and get healthy to lose momentum through winter. It’s one reason we gain weight and feel down. It’s also a reason you may not see true weight loss year after year, but rather the cycling of weight gain and loss.
But it’s not just about weight. Winter exercise can help you:
Don’t wait. Form a plan to stay active in cold weather this year. Here are 8 ideas to get you started.
Although it’s not for everyone, outdoor cold-weather sports are one of the best options for health if you’re willing to brave the temperatures. Why?
Exercising outside has bonus benefits.
First, you get all the perks of exercise in general for heart, brain, and whole-body health.
And second, you can combat down, depressive, winter moods. In fact, studies have found that activity outside improves health markers and reduces cortisol, tension, fatigue, and depression.
It also seems to be motivating. A recent study concluded that men and women over 66 years who exercised outside reported higher levels of total activity per week than inside-exercisers (1).
First, find a sport or winter activity that interests you. Perhaps it’s cross country skiing, downhill skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, or others. Or, if it’s not snowy where you live, try hiking, jogging, or cycling.
One major key is to dress for the weather and use good equipment designed for it. The more you’re prepared for the elements, the more you’ll enjoy the activity and stay safe.
It’s absolutely amazing how many different types of classes you can find for exercise. These may include:
If you have a YMCA or local recreation center, the classes are often very affordable. You may also find that the accountability of others in the class, and of paying for it, keeps you motivated to attend.
There are thousands of workouts available online, on apps, through streaming, or even on DVDs.
With any of these options and just a small amount of floor space, you can exercise every day without even leaving your home. Take a look online and you’re sure to find something you’d enjoy. Much like gym classes, you can find dancing, aerobics, small weights, and more.
And don’t forget to add music you enjoy! A 2010 study found that adding music to exercise training improves endothelial function in patients with cardiovascular disease (2). Music can also improve mood and reduce cortisol.
Money-Saving Bonus: Check out the DVD options at your local library. Many libraries have collections of fitness videos. And what’s more, thrift stores often have many small weights for just a few dollars. If you’re looking for frugal exercise options, this is nearly free.
Sometimes it can feel good to slow down during winter, even with exercise.
Yoga and flexibility training are great options alone or in addition to cardiovascular exercise. What benefits will you get from yoga or stretching? Research suggests it can (3):
In fact, the flexibility of your spinal cord can impact the age and health of your entire body, inside and out. A strong, flexible spinal cord allows you to maintain good posture, with your head and neck upright, rather than forward.
And more, trunk flexibility directly represents the flexibility of your arteries. As crazy as it sounds, it’s true! Researchers have found that poor trunk flexibility is associated with stiff arteries. This means that keeping your body flexible enough to touch your toes means better artery health and blood pressure (4).
Of course, a yoga class is a great place to start. The instruction from a teacher can be invaluable. However, if you don’t have the time or money for a class, take a look online, on apps, or on DVDs. There are hundreds of options available, many for free.
Especially if you’re short on time, your best option may be a simple jump rope.
This children’s toy is an inexpensive, wonderful tool for great cardiovascular exercise. In fact, experts agree that jump roping provides an equivalent effort to running an 8-minute mile. What’s more, the impact is less than running since both knees absorb the jumps together, rather than one at a time (4).
Jump rope for just 10-15 minutes per day and you’ll reap upper-body, core, lower-body, and cardiovascular benefits.
Want another at-home option? Try a minimalist body-weight routine.
Those old tried-and-true exercises you used to do in gym class are some of the best for your body.
Exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, running in place, lunges, squats, and stretching can be enough to reap whole-body exercise benefits. In studies, they have been found as effective as weight training and weight machines in terms of health benefits.
And best of all, they are easily accomplished at home, for free, during any season of the year.
Walking is an excellent exercise for whole-body health, especially if you walk at a brisk pace with intention rather than allowing it to become a stroll.
But, did you know you can get even more benefits if you recruit a friend? While both of you will make exercise gains, you will also reap mental benefits. Here’s how:
Quality friendships simply improve your physical and mental health. Over the course of 80 years, The Harvard Study of Adult Development has shown that good social relationships promote physical and mental health, provide a buffer against loneliness, increase longevity, and foster happiness. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found similar results.
Simply put, these relationships reduce cortisol. Reduced cortisol means slower aging mentally and physically. Combine it with exercise, and you’ll get a one-two anti-stress punch.
If you’re able to walk in a park, on trails, or on non-icy roads in the winter, this is great since you’ll also reap the benefits of being outside. But if not, try walking at a:
Whether outside or in, walking at a moderate to high pace is great exercise!
Swimming and water aerobics are excellent indoor options for exercise. Not only are they great for whole-body health, but they are also extremely easy on your joints.
What’s more, swimming acts as resistance training and cardiovascular exercise in one. You’ll get benefits of building muscle and working your heart!
There are many reasons people gain weight, feel down, and become more lethargic in the winter months.
But, if you go into them motivated with a plan for consistent exercise, you can keep up your momentum and stay healthy. Don’t let the cold weather and dark days stop you.
Recruit a friend, get outside or stay in, and use these eight opportunities to stay active in cold weather this year. You can do it.