Just like animals that hibernate and plants that shed their foliage, people naturally sometimes tend to slow down and become less active in the winter months. Although inactivity for months on end during hibernation may be good for the bear, it’s anything but good for people. In some parts of the world, winter means spending a great deal of time indoors, and for some that means less activity. According to CNN.com/Health, “Seven out of 10 Americans don’t exercise regularly despite the proven health benefits.” Folks just aren’t as active in the winter months so there is a need for a fitness plan that will work for you, maintain good health, and keep that trim, sculpted figure on which you worked so hard over the summer.
As with any new exercise regimen, always check with your doctor and schedule a complete medical evaluation. A stress test would also help you to establish a baseline for your particular level of fitness. Yes, people do drop dead from heart attacks because they over-exert themselves. Don’t be a statistic, get yourself checked out and cleared by a doctor before you begin.
• Set specific goals.
Specific and relaistic goals. Start out slow, you can always notch it up later. Find an exercise regimen that you like, that you enjoy. Aerobic dancing, treadmill walking or running, weight training, basketball, and swimming are all good choices. You’re looking for any form of aerobic exercise that gets you sweating and gets your heart rate up around 160. Check your target heart rate and make sure it corresponds to your age and fitness level.
• Your winter workout space.
When you exercise indoors, make sure your space is properly ventilated and has good airflow. If you’re working out in a gym or fitness center, be sure to clean and sanitize the equipment before you touch it. Cold and flu season is upon us, and these places are a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Most gyms and fitness centers have some sort of sanitizing liquid readily available for your use (even a simple bleach and water mixture works well). If these are not available, talk to the manager.
• Warm up to avoid injury.
Run in place or on a treadmill for about 10 minutes. This will help you avoid too much strain on your heart and will help you to remain free of injury. Stretching exercises are a must – concentrate on your legs, upper body and neck. Stretching routines are readily available online, from a personal trainer or from your local fitness center. When you stretch, do it slowly and gently – don’t bounce or force a stretch. Stretching should never be painful.
• Regular Workouts.
A regular workout schedule will keep you motivated. Those first couple of days are the toughest, so do what’s necessary to make sure you get up and get going on schedule. Shoot for a minimum of three one-hour workouts each week. You can check with a personal fitness trainer or your local fitness club for some ideas on workout routines that will work best for your particular situation. Also, remember why you’re doing this. You want to look better, feel better, improve your health and self-image, build or keep your endurance level up, and keep those winter pounds away. You’re also reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
Especially in the winter months, it’s important to get out there and start some sort of regular exercise program. Regardless of which program you choose, don’t listen to those who say “no pain – no gain”. Instead, take it easy at first, don’t do too much too soon, and exercise regularly rather than just when you can get around to it. So what are you waiting for?