How to Stay Active in the Winter
When the weather is pleasant, it’s easy to take a quick stroll outside or get your exercise in by raking leaves or walking the dog. But as the days turn colder, it can become more difficult to get out and about, and more tempting to stay inside on the couch. The benefits of activity – even just 30 minutes a day – are well-documented, from helping control diabetes, high blood pressure, and the effects of heart disease, to helping maintain flexibility and muscle integrity as we age. In the winter months, getting regular activity can also help battle the winter blues and elevate mood and energy levels.
The good news is that you don’t have to sacrifice your daily activity as the seasons change. There are plenty of ways to stay active during the winter months, and we’ve compiled a few top tips below. As a reminder, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime.
Same activities, different locations
If you enjoy warmer-weather activities like walking or swimming, you can keep these up during the colder months by simply relocating. For example, you can take your walking routine to your local mall to enjoy your exercise in a climate-controlled environment. Many malls actually unlock their doors an hour or so before the stores open, so it’s a perfect time to take a stroll before the crowds arrive. There are even some walking groups that meet regularly at malls to share in some great conversation while exercising.
Similarly, swimming and water aerobics can remain on your daily list of to-dos by finding an indoor pool. Health clubs and even your local YMCA most likely feature an indoor pool where you can swim laps or participate in group exercise classes like water aerobics or aqua yoga. Many private gyms also offer senior discounts, so it’s a good idea to call and ask about special pricing and classes.
If you enjoy workout classes or even lifting weights, you can use the winter as the perfect chance to build a small home gym. You can find workout DVDs online or at your local supercenter; many often require little or no extra equipment. There are also numerous calisthenics that can be done in the comfort of your home, just using your own body weight.
Layer up and head out
Many people really enjoy the colder weather, along with winter sports like skiing, skating, and snow-shoeing. If you’re an active senior and enjoy these activities, by all means, get out and enjoy! Just remember to prioritize your safety and health, and keep a close eye on how your body is responding. The top tip for outdoor activities in the winter is layering your clothing; this ensures you stay warm when first going outside, but you can uncover if and when your body warms up. Be sure to cover your extremities, and wear a hat (60% of body heat escapes through your head).
Also remember that even though it may not be hot outside, it’s important to wear plenty of sunscreen and sunglasses with UV protection. Remember that sunlight reflects off snow, and to protect your skin from windburn as well. If you’re exercising somewhere with dim lighting, be sure to wear reflective items to help others see you clearly, and you may even consider wearing some sort of medical alert device in case of an emergency. You should err on the side of caution, and remember that your body might not perform the same way year-to-year. Be sure to stay hydrated and pace yourself, but continue to enjoy your favorite outdoor winter activities.
Look for new ideas
The social aspects of winter activities can be just as beneficial as the physical aspects; being around others and having fun together is an important element in fighting off seasonal depression or loneliness. Many cities have senior activity centers, community centers, libraries, or churches that host social clubs. The winter can be a perfect time to learn a new hobby, brush up on your computer skills with continuing education classes, and make new friends. You can look for more active classes as well, like dancing or even exercise boot camp. Something as simple as a weekly game night can give you something fun to look forward to, and be an enjoyable way to break up the cold months.
You may also consider using the weather months to volunteer in your community. There are numerous unique volunteer activities that may fit within your scope of interests or activities you enjoy. For example, if you are an animal lover, your local animal shelter is most likely always looking for help in various ways to help care for the animals, and support the mission of the shelter. Organizations like the Ronald McDonald House are always thankful for volunteers who help by preparing a meal for families, performing housework, or volunteering at a fundraising event. Another unique opportunity can be found in some hospitals, where the Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) departments look for volunteer “baby cuddlers” to hold and rock newborn babies having to stay for longer periods in the ICU. You can find even more great ideas online at the Senior Corps website.
Remember that every activity counts in your quest to stay fit and flexible in body and mind. Whether you’re getting your exercise in the toasty warmth of your own home, or braving the elements for activities you can only do when the temperatures drop, it’s best to get your blood pumping every day. With a positive attitude and a little creativity, you can make the winter months an enjoyable season for making new friends and trying new activities.
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