Why You Shouldn’t Take a Winter Break From Exercise

Winter and cold weather get the blame for a lot of the extra pounds people put on during the cold months. But the problem only worsens when people make a conscious decision not to get any exercise during the winter months.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been guilty of doing this too. Exercise can be such an easy routine to fall out of for some reason and one of the hardest to establish. Why, then, when the weather turns cold do we decide to drop our hard-to-develop habit and hibernate?

Keep on Groovin’

Research proves that when people take a break from their fitness routine during the winter months, they experience the following:

  • A 20 percent decrease in cardiopulmonary fitness within just three to eight weeks of not exercising
  • A loss of whatever advantages they gained over time
  • Go back to couch potato fitness level within three to six months of not exercising
  • Difficulty losing the winter weight gained even when they start exercising again

If those statistics don’t sway you, how about the endless number of benefits of continually exercising throughout the year, such as:

  • Positive mood enhancement
  • Weight control
  • More energy
  • Less stress
  • Better sleep
  • Lower chance of depression

Face the Cold

If you’re afraid that running or doing some other cardiovascular activity in the extreme cold will be harmful to your health, let me debunk that myth for you. When properly dressed, you can get a great workout outside, even in the bitter cold. When you start moving, your body instantly works to warm you up.

This is good for two reasons: 1) It eliminates the excuse for not exercising in the winter, and 2) we burn more calories because our bodies are working harder to keep us warm.

Keep these other tips in mind when exercising in the cold:

  • Layer clothing: Make sure your first layer is a moisture-wicking material to keep sweat off your body. Your outer layer should be water resistant, so you stay dry.
  • Wear sunglasses: If you decide to exercise outside with the sun shining, wear protective glasses for your eyes. The glasses should block out UVA and UVB rays.
  • Wear a scarf: This will help to protect your lung tissue from the cold air.
  • Hydrate: Drinking sports drinks or water during winter is just as important as it is in the warm months. You may not sweat as much, but fluid is still being lost, so proper hydration is vital.
  • Keep moving: Since your body warms up naturally by moving, stopping for a break due to fatigue or injury can be dangerous because your body cools down very quickly in the cold. This in turn makes you more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Wear reflective materials if running or exercising in the dark.
  • Watch out for slick and icy spots.

Here are more ways to stay active this winter.

When I was training for my half-marathon in 2004, I absolutely loved running outdoors in the winter months. The bitter nights were some of my best runs of the season.

What do you like to do to stay active in the winter months?

Resource: The Washington Post Photo credit: Wels.net

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