Bust the Blues with Winter Workouts
A Guide for Staying Healthy, Happy and Fit During the Winter Months
Winter. It makes most of us want to cozy up next to a crackling fire, load up on comfort food, and wait for the spring thaw. We shudder at the prospect of going outside, even for the necessities like commuting to work or getting groceries. And we give ourselves a pass when we skip a workout because it's dark, cold, or snowy. But there are so many good reasons to keep up your workout program this time of year. Not only can it keep you from packing on pounds, it can boost your immune system, up your energy, improve your mood, and keep you safe. So here are some good reasons to stay active, a few tips to keep you motivated, and some great ideas for enjoying the outdoors - safely and sensibly.
The Wonders of Winter Workouts
1) Boost your Mood - It's widely accepted in the health-and-fitness world that exercise is mentally and emotionally uplifting. According to an article by the Mayo Clinic staff, it can even alleviate Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to seasonal changes. “Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms,” the article says. So why not kill two birds with one stone? Not only will your workout keep you in shape, it'll help keep the blues at bay! 2) Amp your Energy - It may sound counter-intuitive, but expending energy by working out will bring you more energy in the long run. According to Mayo Clinic, regular physical activity improves muscle strength, endurance, and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues that help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And all that extra energy will help you get going on those dark, chilly winter mornings!
3) Improve your Immunity - While the research isn't conclusive, many studies suggest that regular exercise can help promote a healthy immune system. According to the Harvard Medical School, exercise promotes good circulation, “which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.” And even though a direct link between exercise and a healthy immune system hasn't been established, “it's reasonable to consider moderate, regular exercise to be a beneficial arrow in the quiver of healthy living, a potentially important means for keeping your immune system healthy along with the rest of your body.”
4) Increase your Metabolism - Muscle cells need a lot of energy, which means they burn a lot of calories - more than fat cells - and even when you're not at the gym. So the time you put into working out will deliver benefits long after you've stopped sweating. You've put a lot of hard work into your health and fitness - don't let it slip away just because it's cold or dark. Get your workout in and you'll feel great - mentally and physically -and keep those extra pounds at bay.
1) It's Got to be Fun - If you don't enjoy it, you're probably not going to do it - especially if doing it means braving the cold. So find something that's fun - something you feel good about doing that delivers results, and is enjoyable to do.
2) It's Got to be Interesting - If you're bored with your workout, why not get a pick-me-up? Sign up for a one-on-one session with a fitness coach to get tips on technique, refresh your form, and discover new ways to push yourself so you can get the most out of your workout. It's the perfect way to remind yourself of your health and fitness goals, reboot your exercise program, and rekindle your enthusiasm for fitness!
3) You've Got to Have Friends - If you usually exercise alone, having a workout buddy or taking a fitness class might help keep you motivated this winter. Being accountable to someone else will help you be accountable to yourself - you'll have to show up, no matter how cold or dark it is. But once you get there, you'll be surrounded by like-minded fitness friends who just braved the same winter weather conditions you did to get there - a room full of heroes!
Embracing the Outdoors
1) Get Warm First - Whether you're hitting the slopes, taking a run, shoveling the driveway or simply taking a stroll around the neighborhood, take five to 10 minutes to warm up inside. If your muscles are warm, instead of tensing up when you hit the cold air, your body will be ready to go.
2) Stay Strong - Winter sports are exhilarating, but they're also incredibly rigorous. Skiing, skating, snowshoeing and sledding require some serious strength and stamina. Strength training is one of the best ways to improve the overall strength and stability in your legs, back and core; it also increases your stamina. So be sure to get your strength training in before you hit the snow or ice - it'll keep you on the slopes, ice, trails or sledding hills longer, and reduce your risk of injury.
3) Keep Your Balance - Not only is good balance a must for winter athletes, it's essential for day-to-day survival! Poorly plowed parking lots, snowy driveways and slippery sidewalks can be like walking a tightrope without a net. So focus on balance and core-strengthening exercises - they'll keep you from wiping out on a black diamond ski run or on an icy entrance to the grocery store.
4) Stay Loose - There will be times when you don't see the ice slick and lose your footing. What happens then? Do you hit the pavement, or is your body flexible enough to respond and recover and keep you upright and unharmed? Along with balance, flexibility will help you avoid injuries when you encounter those surprise skids.
Staying on track with your workouts will not only keep you healthy and happy, it will prepare you for a wonderful winter that's fun and fall-free!