There’s no denying it is difficult to exercise during the winter months in Ohio. While ice, snow and cold temperatures can keep people from the outdoors, it is not an excuse for avoiding physical fitness and staying healthy.
“The key to staying motivated anytime, but especially during the winter, is to vary your exercise. Make it fun, involve others, set easy-to-reach goals, and reward yourself for hitting those goals,” said Bryan Ghiloni, MD, a family physician and sports medicine specialist in New Albany, Ohio.
There are many options for outside exercise including walks, exercise programs at local parks, cross country skiing, or ice skating. Even snow shoveling can count as exercise.
“Ohio has some beautiful parks that sponsor walking and fitness programs,” Dr. Ghiloni. Visit www.metroparkstoledo.com for information about local Metroparks and programs.
A family physician can help develop an exercise program that is right for each individual. Depending on the individual’s goals, it is recommended to exercise three to six times per week. Several days may involve aerobic exercise and the others may be resistance (machines or weights). Aerobic exercise might include joining a local gym program (dance, spinning, etc.). Other forms of aerobic exercise include fast walking at a local shopping mall, or using a treadmill or stationary bike at home.
Before heading outside, check the weather and be sure to dress appropriately and with multiple thin layers.
“The trapped air between layers makes great insulation, the thin layers allow for easier movement, and if you get too hot, it is easy to peel off one or two layers,” Dr. Ghiloni said.
People with certain health conditions need to take extra precautions before exercising in the cold weather. They should discuss their plans with their family physician. Exposure to cold air adds additional stress to the heart. Therefore, anyone with a heart condition needs to take extra precautions and may not be able to safely exercise in the cold. Cold air can worsen asthma type symptoms causing or worsening wheezing. Anyone with asthma, emphysema, or other lung diseases should discuss ways to avoid exacerbations with their physician.
Setting attainable goals is also an important part of exercising during cold months.
“Easy goals provide a feeling of accomplishment and keep you motivated. Goals could be a one or two pound weight loss in a week, increased running distance or time, or exercising every day you set out to exercise. And, every time you accomplish a goal, reward yourself. Rewards can include a special dinner out, a small treat, a day off from exercise or a favorite coffee drink,” Dr. Ghiloni suggested.
“Winter is no excuse for not exercising, and our bodies are not designed to sit in a chair all day. In reality, winter time provides new opportunities. So, get out there and exercise,” he added.