When the weather takes a turn for the cooler, it doesn’t mean your exercise routine should go out the door. “In Michigan, SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, is very common,” says Dr. Daniel Seidman, a sports medicine and family medicine doctor at Henry Ford Medical Center-Detroit Northwest. “People with SAD may get symptoms of depression during cold winter months. Working out releases endorphins and makes you feel good – and can be an effective treatment for these symptoms.”
From your house to the gym to the slopes or trails, there are plenty of ways you can put your health first this season. Learn new and creative ways to stay fit all winter long:
1. Embrace the great outdoors
It may be cooler outside, but that’s no excuse to abandon your outdoor workout.“ As the weather cools, we do have days where the temperature is in the negatives or below zero, where you don’t want to be outside for an extended period of time,” Dr. Seidman says. “But most days, if you have appropriate cold-weather gear, you can exercise outside.”
That may mean investing in reflective gear and a headlamp if you exercise in early morning or late at night. Layer up workout clothes (and remove as you warm up). Invest in a nice hat and gloves. Consider adding metal grippers to your shoes for better traction on icy sidewalks.
2. Mix it up
If you have a favorite outdoor activity, winter is a great time to cross-train or choose a different kind of exercise than your usual. “If all you do is run every day, you may suffer from burnout, not only from a physical, but mental standpoint,” Dr. Seidman says. If you’re an avid outdoors runner, for example, you might try an indoor bike or rowing machine. Cross-training uses different muscle groups in different ways, which gives you an added challenge and helps prevent overuse injuries.
3. Sign up for an indoor class
A new class may invigorate your routine. Check with your local gym to see which classes it offers. Many gyms spotlight new programs during the winter months to attract members. Or, ask your friends and coworkers for recommendations. Working out indoors doesn’t have to be confining. An indoor cycling class is a great cardio workout and excuse to get out of the house.
“A lot of the benefits from physical activity come from doing new things,” Dr. Seidman explains. “Trying something new can get you excited about what you’re doing, and it gives your brain a challenge, as well.”
4. Try a different sport
With the right cold weather gear in hand, why not try a new outdoor sport? Maybe this is the year you finally go rock climbing. Hiking or snowshoeing, once it snows, are also great ways to get in a cardio workout. Bonus? You get a dose of vitamin D from being outside.
5. Stay flexible
Even if you can’t make time to hit the gym, you can find ways to be more active during your day. Make a point of getting up every hour or so to walk around for a few minutes or stretch. Incorporate stretching exercises to increase flexibility, posture and stamina. Park farther away from your destination. If aerobic exercise is not an option, take the stairs instead of the elevator. All those little mini-bursts of activity add up and will make you feel more energized during the day, as well.
6. Give yourself a goal
Spring may seem far away, but choosing a race or event to train for can help keep you on track. “Sometimes, it’s easier to work toward a goal because you know you’re going to need to perform instead of working out to work out,” Dr. Seidman says. “Signing up for a marathon or 10K or a bike race in the spring can give you the motivation you need to work out during the winter.”
7. Buddy up
Finally, you’re much more likely to exercise when you have a partner. Enlist a friend, neighbor or coworker and you’ll be more accountable – and likely have more fun, as well. That makes you more apt to stick with it.
“The best workout is the one that you’ll do,” Dr. Seidman says. Look for activities you enjoy, and you’ll find it easier to stick with a routine, no matter the weather.
For more healthy living tips, read our Balance Living blog.