By Ryan McMahon, certified athletic trainer and performance enhancement specialist at Somerset Medical Center’s Sports Performance and Rehabilitation Center
With shorter days, longer nights, and a cold wind blowing away any anxieties about having to look good in a bathing suit, it can be an uphill battle trying to stay fit during the long winter months. Holiday stress and the feasts that follow are known contributors to the “I’ll work out tomorrow” complex that grips the nation this time of year. There is no doubt that weather and stress can significantly impact a person’s motivation to stay in shape, but by implementing just a few, easy-to-follow winter exercise tips, you can ensure your muscle strength doesn’t go into hibernation this time around.
- Stretch yourself. – Your muscles are less flexible in the winter, leaving you more susceptible to injury if you don’t take time to stretch and get your blood moving before exercising. Work your legs, back, and arms with gentle stretches, and try marching in place or doing some jumping jacks to warm up and increase your heart rate. After your workout, remember to cool down with some additional gentle stretches.
- Walk it off. – The cold, windy weather can make the couch seem like an inviting oasis, but getting out for a brisk walk, or a quick, twenty minute run four times a week will satisfy your body’s need for cardiovascular activity. Just remember to dress in layers to insulate your body from the cold but still allow for movement.
- Think of fun ways to get moving. – Despite the winter freeze, there are still plenty of healthy activities you can take part into keep your body in shape. Try cutting down your own Christmas tree this year, or taking your family snow tubing. If money is an issue, you can always build a snowman or have a snow ball fight to get your heart rate up and work your muscles.
- Go out and explore. – Life doesn’t stop when the trees lose their leaves. There are plenty of places you can go to see the natural beauty of winter, and to keep yourself moving. Local parks with ponds are transformed into ice rinks, and familiar trails you hike in the summer can suddenly be new and exciting. Do not let a gust of cold air keep you dormant.
- Try something new. – Use this time of year to try out new things and spice up the season. Try signing up for that ballroom dance class you’ve been considering. If you have two left feet, try taking up a wintertime recreational sport, like hockey or curling. Don’t let the cold scare you off from discovering new ways to tone your body year-round.
The possibilities are as endless as your imagination when it comes to getting out and staying active during the winter months. Visit your local hospital to learn about their wellness services to develop an exercise routine that works for your own, personal situation. By partnering a healthy diet with a comprehensive exercise routine, you won’t just survive the winter, you’ll truly live it.