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Fitness and family health

December 21, 2018

8 ways to keep fit and healthy this winter

Temperatures are dropping, but you don’t have to drop your fitness goals. Here’s how to stay healthy, active and in shape throughout the winter.

Cramming a solid workout into your busy schedule isn’t always easy, especially if there’s a big chill in the air. But don’t let the cold weather dampen your fitness game. From making the most of outdoor winter activities to exercising in the convenience (and warmth!) of your home, here’s how you can stay motivated and find your fitness groove this season.  

1. Enjoy winter activities

Sometimes it’s hard to step outside and brave the cold weather. But bear in mind there are so many fun winter activities – like skating, skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding – that are only available for a brief window of time. So why not layer up and enjoy winter while it lasts? And, if you don’t want to stray too far from the comfort of your own home, you can set up some backyard winter games like having a snowman-building competition with your family and friends, or building snow hills for sledding. If you want a little more incline than you can build in your backyard, try a nearby park or schoolyard. These are all healthy and enjoyable ways to get in some exercise and embrace the Canadian winter.

2. Work out at home to avoid the cold

True, there’s a great variety of activities you can enjoy during wintertime, but not everyone loves the idea of being out in the snow and freezing cold. “This is where utilizing your own space and incorporating at-home workouts into your everyday routine can be very helpful,” says Baylee Joy, a certified personal trainer at Busy Bee Fitness Experts in Toronto.  

Joy adds that you don’t have to have an elaborate home gym setup to get in a great workout. “You can use lightweight equipment like resistance bands and physio balls and learn a variety of bodyweight exercises, which are effective ways to stay for anyone to stay fit,” she says. Plus, there are plenty of equipment-free exercises you can do to build muscles and burn calories, like squats, push-ups and planking.

3. Find a fitness buddy

Worried you’ll fall off the fitness wagon and into the winter blues? Try finding a workout buddy to keep you honest. “Having an exercise partner – whether it’s a friend, family member, spouse or a personal trainer – is one of the best ways to stay motivated towards an exercise regime,” says Joy. When you’re committed to a fitness routine with a buddy, you’ll be able to hold each other accountable, which means you’re less likely to make excuses for missing a workout.

Your partner’s motivation and healthy habits can inspire you, and vice versa. “If you can find someone with a real passion for fitness who can join you on your workouts, then that passion has a tendency to rub off on you,” says Joy.

And, if you prefer exercising outside, it helps to have someone close by in case you run into a weather-related injury, like taking a tumble on a slippery road.  

4. Use a digital assistant for fitness

Can’t find a workout buddy? Don’t sweat it. You’re just a few swipes, clicks or taps away from access to your own digital fitness coach. For starters, wearables like fitness trackers and smartwatches make it easy for you to count your steps and monitor your heart rate, says Joy. Some models take your health to the next level by recording ECGs to measure your heart activity or by tracking your sleep habits at night.

Have a smart speaker at home? Then you already have 24-hour access to your own personal trainer. Today’s voice-activated assistants – like Google Home or Alexa – can take you through guided workouts and encourage you to get moving with fast and effective cardio and core-strengthening exercises. Many of these workouts let you set your own pace, take breaks when needed and pick your own music. And that’s not all: Your smart speaker can also take you through stress-reducing meditation sessions and provide nutritional stats on your latest meal plan.

What if a wearable or a smart speaker isn’t within your reach or budget? You can rely on your phone for advice. There’s an abundance of stellar fitness apps and online tools – like Seven Moments and LIFT Session – that can talk you through workout sessions, which you can do from anywhere without little or no equipment.

5. Set realistic fitness goals

“If you’re a beginner, it’s best to ease into a fitness routine so you don’t burn out quickly,” advises Joy. “Start with small realistic goals and keep incrementally setting the bar higher for yourself.” For instance, if you want to add a half-hour jog or run to your morning routine, you might start with a 10-minute walk around your neighbourhood. As your fitness level increases, you can speed up your pace into a brisk walk and carry on until you’ve managed to work your way up to jogging. Just be sure to adjust your intensity for the weather if you’re outdoors. You may want to play it safe and take things even slower to avoid slips and falls when the sidewalks are icy.

6. Plan for a safe winter workout

Speaking of playing it safe… an outdoor winter workout can be rewarding as it will challenge your muscles and stamina in a new way, but you should always exercise caution when exercising. Since icy paths and pavements pose a greater risk of injury, you’ll have to be alert. Stick to daytime hours for your workout so you can easily spot ice on your route. Also, take your phone or tablet with you in case you fall and need to call for help.

7. Sneak exercise into your day

Not ready to get into full workout mode yet? Not a problem. You can still incorporate exercise and physical activity into your day without putting on any fitness clothes or gear. Here are some simple ways to stay fit throughout the day. If you’re already doing most of these activities, you’re off to a great start:

  • Take five or 10 minutes to stretch after you wake up in the morning.
  • Take a walk during your coffee or lunch break.
  • Climb stairs whenever you can.
  • Walk home from work if you live nearby.
  • Clean up clutter in your home, and make lots of trips up and down the stairs.
  • Play outside with your pets or kids.
  • Try some desk stretches at work or in your home office.

“It’s a good idea to make a conscious effort for every little action you can take to stay more active, whether it’s during winter or any other season,” says Joy. “These little things always add up!”

8. Don’t stress over your fitness resolutions

Many people get discouraged when they veer off track early into their workout regimen, says Joy. But being active is a lifelong commitment to your health – not a quick fix. So, don’t worry if you skipped a workout or if you’re not seeing the results you want right away. Just pick your routine back up the next day or try new activities to boost your motivation and your metabolism.  

“We can’t always stay disciplined with our workouts and that’s perfectly fine,” she says. “You have to remember that healthy habits take time to develop. But as long as you keep making the effort, it’ll eventually pay off.”

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