Keeping Fit Despite Winter Chill
By Lisa Lakey
For The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
LITTLE ROCK -- When the cold weather and holiday season hits, it’s easy to ditch those exercise routines you’ve developed since last year’s New Year’s resolutions. The winter chill and a packed schedule of festivities can leave little time (or desire) to step out the door for that morning run. But we need to reframe the way we think about exercise during the winter months, Lisa Washburn, Assistant Professor of Health for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said.
“We tend to see exercise as one of many time commitments,” Washburn said, “and often overlook the positive returns on that time investment, like having more energy, helping to manage stress, and helping us feel better overall during holiday ‘hecticness.’ Make an effort to view time for exercise as an investment that will yield benefits well beyond calorie expenditure.”
It’s important to stick to a fitness routine no matter the circumstances, but allow a little wiggle room, especially when the holidays hit. If an hour each morning is no longer feasible, don’t beat yourself up over it, adjust and keep moving.
“Be realistic about your expectations,” Washburn said. “Social and family commitments tend to increase during the holidays, so knowing up front that you may not be able to stick to your regular routine is important. Give yourself permission to modify your usual exercise schedule, and find creative ways to squeeze exercise in when time is slim. Even ten minutes of exercise is enough to count toward the recommended 150 minutes a week. You don’t need a big chunk of time, so make small segments count.”
Finding a friend to partner with will help keep you accountable through the season. But if you still have trouble finding motivation this time of year, it might be time to shake up your routine. Many Cooperative Extension Service offices in Arkansas offer a Get Fit strength-training program. Trying something new might be the help you need to continue your fitness goals when the weather outside is frightful.
“Consider other forms of exercise if cooler weather and fewer daylight hours make outdoor activity challenging,” Washburn said. “It may be time to refresh your collection of exercise DVDs, or explore online options for virtual fitness classes. There are tons of free instructional segments on YouTube and other web sites. Think in terms of total physical activity over the course of a day. Are you taking at least 10,000 steps each day? A fitness tracker is a great way to gauge how well you are doing and can boost motivation to move more throughout the day.”
Holding tight to your exercise routine throughout the winter months also means you won’t guilt yourself too much over the occasional holiday treat. That extra gingerbread man here and there won’t destroy your goals as long as you stay focused on keeping healthy and fit amidst the holiday cheer and falling temps.
“One big holiday meal doesn’t have to derail your diet,” Washburn said. “Recognize the indulgence as special and isolated, and resume your regular diet without beating yourself up. While cold weather may narrow exercise options in the winter months, chilly temperatures are no excuse for becoming sedentary.”
For more information on healthy living through the holidays and beyond, contact your county FCS agent or visit http://www.uaex.edu/health-living/health/.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service