As the cold weather and snow begins to arrive in New England it’s time to start thinking of ways to keep exercising throughout the winter months. As Dayle Stark, DPT (doctorate of physical therapy) from Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network explains, there are many ways to remain active no matter what the weather may bring.
“Learning a new activity or reconnecting with a past favorite, such as cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or hiking can be a fun way to stay motivated during the colder months,” Stark said. “A lot of hiking trails in Connecticut convert to cross-country and snow shoe trails once the snow falls. There are also many town and state recreation departments that rent out the equipment needed for these activities, so you don’t have to spend a fortune on new gear.”
Another benefit to staying active during the winter is helping to maintain fitness levels so you don’t have to start from scratch once the ice melts.
“Retaining cardiovascular health and general strength is a key to any exercise plan,” she said. “The loss of endurance and strength occur quickly with a shift toward sedentary habits — it feels like an uphill battle when that happens because of cold weather and then you try to get back to what you love when the cold weather fades and you have to start from the beginning, which takes a negative effect on motivation.”
As with any exercise routine, Stark reminds that there are several precautions and risks you need to be prepared for.
- Lack of warm up can increase risk for injury, so remember to take 5-10 minutes to perform a dynamic warmup.
- Dehydration: We don’t always think we’re thirsty when we’re not hot, so we have to stay mindful about the quantity of water we drink.
- Fall risk on snow- and ice-covered roads and sidewalks.
- Narrowed roadways from plowing: If cycling, running or walking where there is no sidewalk or the sidewalk is blocked (face traffic when on feet), plan your route to ensure safety before getting to a dangerous area.
- Hypothermia risk: Decrease of core body temperature, so be sure to wear proper protective gear to keep you warm.
- Always alert a contact person to be available if there is a need for help. Inform someone of expected time of being out and the location in case you need help.
- Bring a fully charged phone or other alert device (smart watch) with you.
- Talk to your doctor about certain health conditions to make sure you’re healthy enough to exercise.
“Even a small amount of activity is better than nothing — for your fitness, mood, metabolism, sleep and brain activity, with many benefits seen from as little as 15 minutes of continuous moderate activity per day,” Stark said. “Inside vs. outside doesn’t matter as much as just making sure you’re moving regularly!”
For more information on how to stay active and healthy, please visit Mysportshealth.org.