Burrr. It’s the middle of winter, and you feel locked inside the home. You’ve just finished the Christmas holiday season and notice some extra weight.
Wintertime can be that time of year we all dread when it comes to fitness and exercise. And while New Year’s resolutions often involve some amount of weight loss, it can be so difficult to lose weight, and keep it off. Keeping up your metabolism has many health benefits.
But wintertime is often full of TV, movies, binge watching, endless reruns, sitting and reading, and the fear of cold; . . . leading to a less active lifestyle during that time. In fact, heavy TV watching has been found to increase the risk of cardiovascular trauma events like heart attacks, as well as a higher correlation with Alzheimer’s.(1) Sedentary activities like these simply perpetuate the body into an unhealthy spiral. But what do you do, when work is finished, and the weather is cold outside?
First, it all starts with attitude. Breaking the ice, in an emotional sense. Starting good habits should be doable, somewhat enjoyable, and repetitive for at least 2–3 weeks before the body and mind accepts it as a normal rhythm. Pushing yourself to participate in simple exercises and activities repeatedly, with some level of enjoyment, will have long-term benefits. You can get to the point where you look forward to the activity.
5 Ways to Stay Fit
Here are five simple ways to push yourself just enough to keep active and stay healthy when the weather is cold. One-time exercises are not enough. You need to keep it short, and fun, and simple, to keep it a lifestyle during winter.
These first two are indoors. It is amazing when the weather is cold, what you can do in the warmth of indoors.
1) LIVING ROOM POWER EXERCISES
Rather than being a couch potato, why not make exercise fun while watching your favorite TV shows or movies? Make it a tradition or a goal that for the first 15 minutes of any entertainment screen time, you exercise while watching.
This short, yet powerful exercise rhythm can change the way you see homelife. Just in the first 15 minutes, you could burn up to 150 calories (3). And the residual metabolic burn afterward from your increased heartrate can burn even more calories.
Here are some helpful exercises you can practice, right in your living room. Pick 3 or 4 each time and alternate them, to keep it interesting
- Stretches - There are many kinds of stretches. Leg stretches. Hamstring. Wall bends. Touching your toes. All of these will get you warmed up for some of the following exercises.
- Standing leg lifts – While standing, bring one knee up to your belly, while bringing your arms together. Then do the other knee. Practice this for at least 20 rotations
- Squats – There are many variations. But we suggestion start with this: While standing, with your feet shoulder-length apart, squat down, while keeping your fingers holding each other from both arms in front. These builds both calves, and other leg muscles. 5 to 10 rotations are a good start.
- Jumping jacks – Yes, the classic exercise for anywhere. As you’ve heard or done, quickly jump your legs away from each other, along with your arms stretched out reaching towards the sky. Then bring your legs together, along with your hands back down to your sides. If you haven’t done them in a while, a set of 25 jumping jacks is a good start. You can increase from there.
- Pushups – This classic exercise not only builds arm strength but core ab strength as well. Laying on the ground, face down, keep your body straight and stiff while pushing up with your arms, with your toes holding your lower body up. If you haven’t done them in a while, 5 rotations are likely a good start. If it is too difficult you can try it from your knees. But eventually “graduate” in time to your toes.
- Sit ups – Another fitness classic, laying down with your knees up, sit up and bring your chest to your knees. This can be difficult of your balance is off, or you haven’t done it in a while. but it is a powerful core ab exercise.
- Side leg lifts - while laying down on your side lift your leg towards the ceiling. Then do the other leg after several rotations. This is easy and fun exercise to do while doing screen time.
- Ab twists - while standing hold your arms up in turn your upper torso to the right and then all the way to the left. Do this repeatedly until you feel pressure. Be sure not to turn too far.
2) GYM MEMBERSHIP
Having and using a gym membership is effective way to staying fit during the wintertime. The paid membership encourages you to get your money’s worth by continuing regular daily exercise. Make it a goal to go at least three times a week. Make a rhythm and habit out of trying various machines with the same amount of rotations during a set time.
If you are pressed for time or see the gym as a deterrent, perhaps make your workouts short enough for you to not avoid going. This may be a simple 30-minute routine where you use certain machines, treadmills, cardio, and anaerobic exercise equipment for a set time. It is easy and regular enough that you will see health benefits by the end of the winter. Finally pick a gym that you enjoy going to that is close enough that you won't stop going because of distance. For me I like watching certain entertainment, like home makeover shows, when I'm on the treadmill at the gym. It makes the time go by fast and I enjoy the entertainment while benefiting from exercise.
Here are three outdoor activities you can do for basically free that take advantage of the beauty of winter.
3) WALKING IN THE SNOW
Dressing warm is key to this. If you are warm and layered with at least two or three layers, you will not feel the cold as much, but will instead enjoy the cool crisp air and beauty of the snow. Be sure to have a base layer like polyester, and your regular clothes as a mid-layer and a jacket on your torso.
Walks in the park. Walks around the block. Snowshoeing up in the mountains. Hiking. There are many outdoor walking opportunities that exist in the winter and you can take advantage of the less crowded trails and sidewalks while enjoying the outdoors.
If walking on ice worries you, consider wearing hiking boots with good tread, as well as trekking poles or even crampons.
Make this regular, as well as a half-day hike once-a-week in the winter. Especially take advantage of a warm or dry winter day for a longer hike. And a daily walk around the block or walk in the park will go a long way. These will keep up your walking lifestyle during a time of year when people don't think about walking.
4) EXERCISES WITH THE KIDS
While you may not like the winter, your kids or grandchildren may. Take advantage of this and spend quality time with them. Take them to the mountains for a sledding day, going up and down the sledding hill burns many calories while having fun. You could easily spend a whole day's worth of calories just in an hour of sledding.
Take them for snow walks. Make a snowman. Play in the snow with them. Snowball fights. Snow causes natural resistance, yet is fun and interesting to do activities in. It’s like wearing resistance bars when walking. All these activities exert a lot of energy in your body, and it keeps the kids active. Perhaps make this a weekly tradition during the winter one hour of winter playtime outside with the kids. Just make sure everyone is layered and dressed well keeping their hands, heads and feet covered well.
5) CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
Cross country skiing is it a fitness secret for many who enjoy it. You don't need mountains, but they make it more fun. Find a county park or a local mountain and with snow. You will enjoy the day gliding along the top of the snow just like surfing or flying.
The amount of energy you exert to kick your skis in front of you and pull your body forward is much more than normal walking, but it is hard to notice as it is so fun. After you get into a Nordic walking rhythm using the skis, it's hard to want to stop. Along with the use of the Nordic trekking poles, your upper arm and body movements make for a holistic body exercise. And once you have the equipment, this exercise is free. No expensive ski lift tickets. . . just simple outdoor exercise you can enjoy alone or together with your friends and family.
As you can see there are many health benefits to workouts during the wintertime. Don't let this time of year make you fat and unfit. Take advantage of anytime you have; whether it is watching TV or going outside or filling your boring time with a gym membership. You can come out the other side of winter healthier than you started it with and enter summer looking good and feeling great.
About the author: Mike Cutler writes on active senior lifestyles and is a healthy lifestyle Blogger as well as product tester for earth trek gear. He lives with his family in Reno NV and enjoys going to the Sierra Nevada mountains for hiking and family activities.