The shortage of daylight, the cold temperatures and the strong urge to stay in your warm bed will all be working against you this winter as you try to stay focused on your physical activity.
The holidays can be stressful enough without trying to keep up with a regular exercise schedule, but putting on a few (or 10) pounds is probably not the gift you want to give yourself this year. Keep in mind that staying active will give you more energy and help reduce stress, so it’s well worth the effort!
If you’re worried this means you’ll be stuck inside a gym all winter long, don’t be. The American Council on Exercise says it’s fine to exercise in cold weather as long as you take certain precautions to avoid hypothermia (the loss of too much body heat).
Here are some tips and ideas for exercising to keep you fit and motivated during the winter months:
• Wear layers. Insulating yourself against the wind and cold is important, so put on multiple layers for best coverage (you can always remove them if you get over-heated).
• Keep your feet, hands and head warm with socks, gloves and a hat. About 50 percent of body heat is lost from an uncovered head when the temperature is freezing or below! If it’s very cold, wear a scarf or mask to cover your nose and mouth.
• Put your clothes in the dryer. If you plan to exercise in the morning but struggle to force yourself out of that nice, warm bed, put your workout clothes in the dryer the night before. When you get out of bed, turn on the dryer for a few minutes. It’s easier to start exercising when you’re already warm!
• Power-walk in the mall while gift shopping. Do a couple of laps around the mall before you even begin looking in the stores. Walk up and down the escalators, rather than just standing. Avoid taking the nearest parking space to the mall entrance and instead park a few blocks away. Make your shopping trips last longer—the added weight of the presents will even provide a muscle workout!
• Do an extra long warm-up. When it’s cold, your muscles can get extra-tight, which makes exercise uncomfortable. You may just need a little more time to get your blood flowing.
• Get active in winter sports. If the conditions are right, you can snowshoe, ski or ice skate. These outdoor activities burn calories and keep you in the holiday spirit—though they may not be accessible for everyone.
• Go for a walk or toss around the football. This is a great activity for the family after a big holiday meal. It could become a fun family tradition!
• Always check the weather before heading out. The National Safety Council says there’s little risk when exercising in 20-degree weather, even with 30 mile-per-hour winds, but that dangers exist when the combined temperature and wind-chill is below -20°F.
The most important thing is to be realistic and go easy on yourself. Being in control of your schedule during the holidays can be particularly challenging, so you can only do your best. For some, the best goal may be to maintain your weight or fitness level, rather than trying to lose weight or improve your physical condition.
If you’re absolutely against exercising in cold temperatures, you can still get outside occasionally for quick workouts without being too miserable. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, getting outdoors can be rejuvenating and refreshing. We hope this gets you motivated to exercise during the winter season!