Never mind the challenges that the pandemic has thrown us when it comes to maintaining our physical activity levels, the winter also brings barriers to activity. Still, it doesn’t take our experts at North Shore Sports Medicine to tell you that there are many benefits to physical activity when it comes to maintaining our physical and mental health.
From improved cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and muscle endurance to enhanced flexibility, lower blood pressure, and improved immune functioning, there are many reasons to stay active year-round. Additionally, there is a large and growing body of evidence that supports exercise for improving your psychological health through reduced stress and better mood.
Nevertheless, many of us struggle to maintain our activity levels in the winter – the days are shorter and the weather is less appealing. Current recommendations for physical activity suggest 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity. That means you want to get your heart rate up enough that you should be able to talk but not sing. Fortunately, there are many different activities that can support these goals including walking, hiking, running, or biking; and it’s ok to break those minutes into smaller chunks. Evidence suggests that you should aim for a minimum of 10 minutes of moderate activity at a time – so even a brisk roll in your wheelchair during a coffee break counts!
With that in mind, what can you do during the winter months to achieve your activity goals? These tips can keep you moving no matter what winter has to offer.
- Plan for the Weather – Keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan longer activities for days when the weather is fine.
- Dress Appropriately – If you can afford it, invest in some good winter clothes. Consider buying waterproof layers so that you can go out even when it’s raining or snowing. Otherwise, wear several layers so that you can add or remove clothing to maintain a comfortable temperature.
- Try New Activities – Sometimes finding winter activities that you love can motivate you to be more active. Snowshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding can be a lot of fun, but even a nature walk under the cover of trees can be lovely in the winter.
- Find an Online Fitness Class – Especially during the pandemic, the availability of online fitness classes has exploded. You can join live classes or follow along with a YouTube video. And remember, you can break your activity minutes into smaller chunks so you can fit something in at any time of the day.
- Clean your House – It might not sound fun, but you can kill two birds with one stone. Vacuuming, floor cleaning, wall cleaning, and other household chores will count toward your activity goals. And, if you want to get really creative spend extra time going up and down the stairs.
Remember, regular physical activity helps you feel well both physical and mentally. It has benefits for cognitive health, sleep hygiene, cancer prevention, and so much more. Keeping yourself active in the winter can not only help you feel better during these colder, shorter days, you’ll also be supporting your future well-being too.