7 Easy Ideas to Stay Active in Cooler Weather
The balmy days of summer make exercise convenient and enjoyable. But what about when the weather turns? Look at a workout as an investment in your mental health on the dreariest of days. Get into a routine this fall that will help you make it through the winter.
“In Michigan, SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is very common,” says Dr. Daniel Seidman, a sports medicine and family medicine doctor. “People with SAD may get symptoms of depression during cold winter months. Working out releases endorphins and makes you feel good – and can be an effective treatment for these symptoms.”
Embrace the great outdoors
Baby, it may be cooler outside, but that’s no excuse to abandon your outdoor workout.“ As the weather cools, we do have days where the temperature is in the negatives or below zero, where you don’t want to be outside for an extended period of time,” Dr. Seidman says. “But most days, if you have appropriate cold-weather gear, you can exercise outside.”
That may mean investing in reflective gear and a headlamp if you’ll exercise in early morning or evening, when it’s dark outside; workout clothes that you can layer on (and remove as you warm up); hats and gloves; and metal grippers for your shoes that give you better traction on icy sidewalks.
Mix it up
If you have a favorite outdoor activity, fall and winter are great times to cross-train or choose a different kind of exercise than your usual. “If all you do is run every day, you may suffer from burnout, not only from a physical but mental standpoint,” Dr. Seidman says. If you’re an avid outdoors runner, for example, you might try an indoor bike or rowing machine. Cross-training uses different muscle groups in different ways, which gives you an added challenge and helps prevent overuse injuries.
Sign up for an indoor class
A new class may invigorate your routine. Check with your local gym to see which classes it offers. Many gyms spotlight new programs during the winter months to attract members. Or ask your friends and coworkers for recommendations. Working out indoors doesn’t have to be confining. An indoor cycling class is a great cardio workout and excuse to get out of the house.
“A lot of the benefits from physical activity come from doing new things,” Dr. Seidman explains. “Trying something new can get you excited about what you’re doing, and it gives your brain a challenge, as well.”
Try a different sport
With the right cold weather gear in hand, why not try a new outdoor sport? Maybe this is the year you finally go rock climbing. Hiking or snowshoeing, once it snows, are also great ways to get in a cardio workout. Bonus? You get a dose of vitamin D from being outside.
Even if you can’t make time to hit the gym, you can find ways to be more active during your day. Make a point of getting up every hour or so to walk around for a few minutes or stretch. Incorporate stretching exercises to increase flexibility, posture, and stamina. Park farther away from your destination. If aerobic exercise is not an option, take the stairs instead of the elevator. All those little mini-bursts of activity add up and will make you feel more energized during the day, as well.
Give yourself a goal
Spring may seem far away, but choosing a race or event to train for can help keep you on track. “Sometimes, it’s easier to work toward a goal because you know you’re going to need to perform instead of working out to work out,” Dr. Seidman says. “Signing up for a marathon or 10K or a bike race in the spring can give you the motivation you need to work out during the winter.”
Finally, you’re much more likely to exercise when you have a partner. Enlist a friend, neighbor or coworker and you’ll be more accountable – and likely have more fun, as well. That makes you more apt to stick with it.
“The best workout is the one that you’ll do,” Dr. Seidman says. Look for activities you enjoy and you’ll find it easier to stick with a routine, no matter the weather.
Need a gym for your indoor workouts?
HAP members can enjoy discounts at local gyms and fitness centers. Log in to your hap.org account and select HAP Member Discounts in Quick Links.