Rev Up Your Fitness Program with these Winter Exercise Tips

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Charles Dickens began his famous novel A Tale of Two Cities with the phrase, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” We could say the same thing for winter. The cold season brings with it unique challenges and even concerns for well-being. At the same time, though, it presents fitness and exercise opportunities that summer just can’t match. Here’s why:

  • Did you know your blood pressure goes up during the winter? It’s true. When you’re cold, your body constricts your blood vessels to direct more of its life-giving heat to your brain, heart and lungs, according to weather.com. But this normally healthy reaction can increase your risks of heart attack or stroke, especially if you become inactive during the winter months.
  • Winter can disrupt your sleep cycle. Short, overcast days and long, dark nights disrupt many people’s body clocks, keeping them awake when they should be resting and making them drowsy when they should be alert. Not only can this put stress on your system, it can also make you accident-prone.
  • Winter seems to trigger a craving for unhealthy foods. According to Science Line, our ancestors developed this drive because a healthy layer of fat is important during times of famine. But this instinct, which helped us in the past, spells trouble in our food abundant modern society. We eat too many simple carbs like cookies and cake.
  • We’re more likely to get sick during the winter. Scientists believe this is because we keep our windows closed and breathe warm, recirculated air during the cold season, giving germs an added chance to work their mischief.
  • Winter sends many of us into shutdown mode. We feel sleepy, lethargic and grumpy most of the time, sapping our willpower and making us sedentary.

There’s a flip side to all this bad news, however. While winter poses added health risks, it also presents excellent opportunities for getting a great workout. Here’s why:

  • Exercising in cold weather can boost your metabolism, transforming hard to metabolize white fat into easy to burn brown fat, according to physiologists.
  • Your odds of developing heat stroke and heat exhaustion are much lower during the winter.
  • Winter provides the perfect backdrop for invigorating activities like cross-country skiing, which provides both muscle building and cardiovascular benefits.
  • Working out in cold weather gives you bragging rights. You can tell your friends, “Yeah, I didn’t let Old Man Winter keep me inside this year. I bundled up and kept going right on through till spring.”

Here are some tips for staying safe while getting your wintertime exercise:

  • Dress in layers. If you get too warm, then you can simply remove the top layer and keep moving. It’s important to never let yourself get drenched in sweat when you’re outside in cold weather. So wear warm, breathable fabrics next to your skin.
  • Know the warning signs of frostbite and hypothermia and head inside if you feel numb or begin to shiver.
  • Exercise with another person if possible. The two of you can watch out for each other.
  • Keep an eye out for ice and other slip hazards.

Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it also boosts your positive, motivating emotions, too. Part of this is biology — the body is regulating itself during exercise – but it also has to do with seeing and feeling the results of your efforts. So don’t let winter turn you into a hibernating bear. Keep your fitness program going year-round, so you can enjoy the benefits of good health 365 days a year.

Jason writes for StrongWell and enjoys creating fitness programs that cater to the needs of people over 65.


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