Don’t Hibernate! How to Keep Moving in Cold Winter Months

Winter weather is here! Great news for some cold weather outdoor enthusiasts, however for most of us this means more time indoors – the evening walks, sunset jogs and motivation for daily workout routines come to a screeching halt.

Yes, it’s gloomy, dark, and frigid but don’t let that stop you from exercising. Regular physical activity becomes even more critical in the dark, dreary winter months where rates of depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and weight gain rise. Staying active has been shown to help improve all those symptoms and for people undergoing treatment for cancer, taking a five-month hiatus from exercise can make it even harder to maintain healthy energy levels, mood and sleep. Recently, the American College of Sports Medicine released updated exercise guidelines tailored to people with cancer – read them here.

Here are our top 5 tips for staying active in the Winter:

Gym membership

There are many affordable gyms/health clubs that individuals can sign up for on a month-to-month basis. A typical gym will have equipment that can be used for strength/resistance training as well as a wide variety of machines for aerobic/cardiovascular exercise, such as treadmills, stationary bikes or elliptical machines. Furthermore, some gyms offer group fitness classes like yoga, dance, cycling, etc. Some gyms even have a pool for swimming which is an excellent low-impact activity. Overall a gym provides the means for both aerobic/cardiovascular exercise as well as strength/resistance training and if you include yoga in the mix, mind-body practices as well.

At-Home Workouts

Home workouts can be a great inexpensive and convenient way to workout. They can be done alone or with a partner to help keep each other motivated and on schedule. If you don’t want to create your own home workout, consider downloading one of the many free (or inexpensive) smartphone apps. These provide guided, fun and varied workouts, any time, any place. Some of our favorites include:

  1. BodBot Personal Trainer
  2. No Equipment by Leap Fitness Group
  3. Nike Training Club by Nike
  4. Sworkit
  5. DailyYoga
  6. SweatWorking

Shop around, experiment and see what apps motivate you to keep moving in the comfort of your own home.

Mall Walking

This is the perfect replacement for those of us who love to walk outside in the warmer months. Malls provide a great space for people to have brisk daily walks – they are climate-controlled with level, clean surfaces so there is no concern about tripping. There are also bathrooms, water fountains and benches for breaks. At times, malls can become crowded, so waking up early and getting there upon opening (or even before) is a great way to avoid busy times. Many malls even have organized walking groups if you don’t want to do it alone.

Swimming / Aqua fit

Swimming has the potential to provide an excellent, low-impact cardiovascular workout. It is easy on the joints and ideal for those of us with stiffness, pain and conditions such as osteoarthritis. Pool exercises can provide an intense workout such as swimming lengths with front crawl or moderate exercise such as breast stroke or even light exercise with pool walking. There are also group aqua fit classes which you can sign up for that are sure to increase your heartrate. Search the internet for a pool near you – many gyms, community centers and municipal buildings have pools.

Braving the Cold

Lastly, those of us who are willing to bundle up and brave the cold by exercising outdoors during the winter will get the added benefit of being outside. Time in nature is its own medicine with a myriad of health benefits – improving mood, immune status, regulating sleep and reducing your risk of a host of diseases. For those of us who are willing to be more adventurous, try activities like cross country skiing, ice skating, hiking or running/walking. The key is to plan ahead and be prepared – layer well, cover your extremities and take safety precautions like reflective gear and proper footwear. A brisk walk on a cold, snow-covered morning is a great way to burn fat and reap the benefits of activity.

Cameron McIntyre

Naturopathic Intern at the CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre