Looking ahead to the gloomy winter months and thinking about skipping exercise, and hibernating in your stretchy pants and roomy sweaters? Think again. Winter is a great time to try a new routine and stay fit.
The University of Maastricht in the Netherlands studied exercise in colder months and found that as your body learns to adjust to working out in the cold, it burns more stores of fat. This extra fat is burned because your body, in addition to burning energy to jog or ski, is also burning energy to keep you warm. Exercising in cold weather is particularly good for reducing fat.
Exercise also helps to alleviate the winter blues for people who suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder or depression. Many studies have shown that the release of endorphins from an indoor swim or outdoor jog improve moods. finding a workout you can do outdoors in winter, like jogging, skiing or snowshoeing adds Vitamin D, which helps to improve your mood and bone strength. Exercising also improves your sleep, which gives you the added benefits of mental vigilance, improves mood and helps regulate metabolism.
A Limited Period of Time
Knowing that winter is only here for several months is a good motivator to enjoy winter sports while they last. Many towns erect a winter ice skating rink, so become a regular. If that gets too expensive, look for an inexpensive sled and a few good hills. Hiking or walking in the snow is calming and great exercise, but most athletic trainers advise forgoing outdoor walking or running in the ice because one slip can easily result in a twisted ankle or a trip to the emergency room.
Outdoor exercise requires smart clothing choices. Layering is usually the key to the winter exercise wardrobe. Make sure to wear wicking tights and shirt, followed by a fleece jacket, and a waterproof shell for rain, and some track pants. A winter cap and gloves are a good addition to the mix, based on how cold it is. Bright colors and reflective stripes are more necessary in winter, when the sun comes up late and goes down early. Add a headlamp or reflective coat for maximum visibility.
Strength in Numbers
One of the best ideas for ensuring you exercise in the winter is the buddy system. Having another person helps with accountability and motivation. Can’t find a buddy who wants to run at 5am? Join a boot camp class or Masters swim program for the support and encouragement.
If outdoor exercise is not your top choice, add something new and fun into your routine. Try hot yoga, take a dance class or something you’ve always wanted to try. Avoid treating yourself to special foods as a reward for working out. Instead, stay away from food and use the sauna after a gym workout, take a warm tub after your run or schedule a massage for a month of consistent workouts. Making your workouts fun, and enjoying a special treat after will make this a winter of fun and fitness.