Staying Active In Winter

When it’s cold, it’s easier to chill and watch telly with a bag of popcorn than it is to work out. Tamara Oberholster looks at why it’s worth getting active and how to keep motivated.

It feels harder to get up and keep moving in winter, when it’s cold out and the duvet is extra-inviting. But exercise has benefits beyond fitness during the chilly season.

Tarryn Seagram and Cheryl Whelan, owners and trainers at TransformHERS, note that regular exercise boosts your immune system so it can fight off infections. “This becomes particularly important in winter when colds and flu are widespread,” says Seagram. “When you exercise and get your blood pumping, immune cells circulate through your body more quickly, assisting them in targeting and fighting infections. This boost is temporary, so exercise needs to be regular for long-term benefit.”

The winter sun is also a source of vitamin D (needed for healthy bones and calcium absorption), without the burn factor of summer sun. “When cooped up indoors we often don’t get enough sunshine to harness the vitamin D. That’s why it’s important to get active outdoors in winter,” says Whelan. “Sunshine can also boost positivity. A daily workout releases feel-good brain chemicals (endorphins, serotonin and dopamine), which reduce stress levels and cheer you up, and can also ease depression, even if temporarily.”

 Easy ways to be more active

Take the stairs (not the lift or escalator).

Use an exercise video for guidance, focus and company (search YouTube for free videos).

Use a step counter/heart-rate monitor to motivate you (try to reach a total of 10 000 steps per day).

Ride your bike with the kids or push your kids on their bikes.

Walk the dogs around your neighbourhood or local park.

Jump on a trampoline (at home, at the park or at an indoor trampoline park).

 Home fitness equipment

Sensible home fitness items can help you expand your exercise. Seagram and Whelan suggest the following:

Theraband: Gives resistance when exercising, which helps with toning.

Skipping rope: Easy to store or transport and makes for great cardio. Seagram suggests using it daily for two minutes, counting your reps and trying to improve every day.

Lightweight dumbbells: “Doing many reps with light weights gives you toned, lean muscle, whereas heavy weights with fewer reps bulk the muscle,” says Whelan.

Floor mat: Makes your floor-based exercises more comfortable.

Treadmill or stationary bike: “If you have space and budget, this is a great way to continue longer cardio workouts in the comfort of your home if you are used to running or cycling outdoors,” says Seagram. “Vary your intensity of training and/or resistance over the period of your workout.”

 Keeping motivated when it’s cold

“It’s important for your exercise regime to be realistic and attainable,” Whelan says. “That way it will be easy to maintain. If you aren’t used to running 5km, setting a goal of running 5km three times per week in winter is just setting yourself up to fail.”

She says workouts also need to be convenient – within easy reach and without much equipment. “Make workouts short (an intense 30 minutes) and draw up a schedule so you can keep track of them (and tick them off when complete). Small victories give you a sense of achievement that motivates further activity.”

Seagram says working out to music can be motivating. “It assists with the enjoyment factor and gives you ‘company’ while training,” she says. “It also helps to include a buddy to share workouts, keeping you accountable and making you more likely to stick to an exercise regime.”

Finally, set a goal you wish to achieve once winter is over (for example to do a 5km race or fit into a pair of jeans), to keep you focused through the cooler months. 

Image: ©Shutterstock - 748721899

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