Tips for Staying Active During Cold Weather Months
Staying active can be difficult this time of the year. Temperatures start to decline in November and December, just as the temptations of holiday foods and desserts start to increase. To make matters worse, daylight hours are fewer, making it harder to get outside and stay active. To help you get through the cold winter months, and get a jump start on your New Year’s resolution, University of Findlay faculty members share their tips and tricks.
When it comes to family gatherings and food temptations, Kyle Gilbert, UF Clinical Coordinator in Strength and Conditioning says it comes down to limits. “It may not be as much what we eat, but how much we eat. I believe you can limit some of those temptations by setting limits on food intake, and setting a standard for exercise time,” said Gilbert. He also suggests that taking home food from those family gatherings only creates temptations. “Just having the food around can lead to us randomly eating when we normally wouldn’t, creating unnecessary calories that we don’t need,” he says.
Stephanie Born, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the University of Findlay’s Health and Human Performance Department, and serves as UF’s Director of the Exercise Science Program. When it comes to food, Born believes it comes down to preparation and self-patience. “You can prepare to encounter these foods by eating before the social engagement to ensure you don’t attend in a ravenous state. You can practice self-patience by allowing yourself to be present and enjoying your time with others,” she said.
Cold temperatures, snow, and ice can make physical activity and consistently working out difficult – but not impossible. Gilbert and Born both recognized the importance of gyms and gym memberships, as they provide people with a warm environment to workout, all the equipment someone would need to work their muscles and improve their cardiovascular health, and a resource of trained professionals who are there to help with machines and creating health plans.
The question then becomes, how many times should I go, and what should I work on? Gilbert says creating a plan should be your first step. “If 5x’s per week isn’t plausible, don’t try to do it. If all you can do is 2x’s per week, then start there. If you can’t keep up with it consistently, you will inevitably fall off,” he says. “Plan on two days per week, and plan to run for 10 minutes (treadmills, elliptical, bike, etc.). Plan for an upper body day and a lower body day, creating consistency you can manage.” Gilbert also encourages everyone to work with a personal trainer to create specific training frequency and determine what to focus on during workouts.
The American Heart Association recommends adults complete a minimum of 150 minutes of cardio each week, and 2-3 sessions of resistance training each week. 150 minutes breaks down to 30 minutes of cardio five days a week, but Born says it doesn’t need to be done in half-hour increments. “What we are learning is that one 30-minute bout of cardio does not undo the harmful effects of sitting for eight hours a day. A better way to implement this might be to take breaks and get three 10-minute bouts of cardio throughout the day,” she said.
What if you can’t get to the gym due to conflicts with work and children, or if the costly membership is too much? Gilbert and Born suggest working out at home, and say it’s easier than you think. “Incorporating bodyweight movements such as squats, lunges, pushups, door and frame rows, is a great way to start,” said Gilbert. Once you have started the routine, he suggests adding resistance with household objects. “I don’t recommend trying to front squat your sofa or love seat, but basics like cans of soups, gallons of water, and bookbag front squats are great ways to add resistance.” Born suggests considering activities such as yoga, Zumba, or other follow along workout videos. She also says exploring the app store for workout apps is a great place to start.
Once committed to working out and making your health a priority, Born also stresses the importance of staying hydrated. “When we become dehydrated, our hearts have to work harder to circulate our blood, placing a strain on the cardiovascular system. It also makes it harder for our other organs to do their jobs,” she says. With a water bottle in hand, and a workout plan in order, how much water should you be drinking? Based on your weight, a person should drink half an ounce of water for every pound of weight (200lb person x 0.5 = 100 ounces of water per day). If you’re working out, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends adding 12 ounces of water for every 30 minutes you plan to exercise (100oz of daily water + 12oz if you worked out for 30 minutes = 112oz per day).
Healthy eating, consistent exercise, and plenty of hydration can lead to more than weight loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests being physically active also improves sleep, reduces stress and anxiety, and improves balance and mood. In fact, the CDC states a consistent exercise regimen has also been associated with reducing depression, lowering the chances of type 2 diabetes, and reducing pain for adults with arthritis.
“After reading this article, create a plan, and don’t say I’ll do it tomorrow. Organize a strategy and start ASAP!” said Gilbert.