4 winter exercise strategies to stay fit this winter
Winter activity tips to keep you moving
1. Try this home circuit
Watching TV doesn't need to be a passive activity – you can swap boring ads for a workout, even if you just jump off the couch and jog on the spot for five minutes. In fact, exercising during six sets of ad breaks for 5 minutes each, will add up to a full 30 minute workout!
When you have some space in front of the telly, try this circuit workout during the commercial breaks of your favourite show – it’ll boost your heart rate, strengthen your muscles and move all your major body parts. Spend 30 seconds on each activity, doing as many repetitions as you can in that time, before moving onto the next exercise.
• Static lunges
• Push-ups (on your knees or toes)
• Star jumps
• Back raises (lift opposite arm and leg while laying on your stomach)
• Air boxing
2. Be flexible with your routine
Cooler temperatures and less daylight hours can challenge your motivation, but a flexible approach to fitness will help you stay on track. You might be an early morning mover during summer but it may be better to work out in your lunch hour in winter, when there’s more light and the day has warmed up.
“Winter’s a great time to change up your usual exercise routine for a few months. You’ll be able to get back to your usual routine once the weather warms up again, so it’s just a case of keeping the habit but changing routine in the habit whilst it’s cold.” says Exercise Physiologist Neil Russell. “Think about changing the location you exercise at, for example instead of swimming laps at the ocean pool, head to an indoor heated pool instead. Try to keep a trigger to maintain the habit, so if it was ‘when I wake I exercise’, now it’s ‘before I eat lunch I exercise’”.
3. Dress for winter workout success
Even though it’s tempting to wrap yourself up in a woollen jumper or a warm coat, being active generates a considerable amount of heat. However, the evaporation of sweat can make your body lose heat and feel chilled. Solution? Dress in layers.
“Wear multiple layers so you have the option to take them off once you’ve warmed up,” says Russell. Choose synthetic materials, such as polypropylene, fleece and waterproof fabrics. Avoid cotton, which stays wet on your skin.
“Make sure you’ve got enough time for a proper warm-up when you exercise, as properly prepared muscles are less prone to injury,” he says. “Start off slow and ease yourself into the exercise you’ll be doing. Try walking and doing some lunges before starting to jog or doing some arm rotations and lower body stretches before diving into the pool. This will also mean you’re ready to lose a few layers of clothes and get stuck into it”.
4. Have a backup plan
Winter weather can be unpredictable but having a backup plan means you’re always ready to move. Try these excuse-busters next time its pouring and you’re trying to talk yourself out of a workout.
It’s too cold: Whatever the temperature, being active outdoors is good for your mind as well as your body. Research shows that going for a walk in the park or a jog along the riverside helps to reduce stress and improve mood and self-esteem. And there’s also evidence to suggest that working out in nature may encourage you to exercise at a higher intensity than you would indoors – without you even realising it!
It’s too dark: Try a pre-breakfast workout just after the sun comes up. Exposing your body to early morning light sets your body clock, which keeps you alert during the day, regulates appetite hormones and helps you get a good night’s sleep. A study by Northwestern University in the US found people who were exposed to light at the start of the day were more likely to have a lower body mass index regardless of how many kilojoules they consumed.
It’s raining: Go straight to the gym on your way home from work or do a workout indoors at home before you start preparing dinner, so you’re not tempted to settle on the couch once you’re home.