Why You Need a Winter Workout Plan

Oh, the doldrums of winter—shorter days, frigid temperatures and more clouds than sun. Despite the desire to hibernate, Caitlyn Rohrs, physical therapy assistant with Meritus Total Rehab Care, offers five good reasons why you should stay active during the winter:

  1. Our bodies store more fat in the winter. The production of ATLPL, a chemical that promotes fat storage, almost doubles during the winter months to help insulate our bodies.
  2. We need sunshine for the production of vitamin D—necessary for promoting strong bones, maintaining a healthy immune system and boosting mood. People who remain indoors are often vitamin D deficient.
  3. Exercise increases energy levels and the production of serotonin, a natural chemical responsible for mood and mental clarity.
  4. It’s harder to recover from months of inactivity. Not only do you lose cardiovascular endurance if you stop exercising for a few weeks, but also muscle mass. Physically inactive people can lose as much as three to five percent of their muscle mass each decade after age 30.
  5. A consistent workout routine wards off holiday weight gain. Although people tend to gain only one pound during the holidays, most people don’t lose that extra pound each year—and that can add up. Start exercising now and get a jump start on your New Year fitness goals.

Caitlyn recommends an indoor and outdoor fitness plan:

Indoor Workouts

Take commercial breaks. During TV commercials or in between streaming shows, do 15 of each: squats, push-ups, abdominal crunches and high knees. “Look to YouTube or Pinterest for more quick workout ideas,” says Caitlyn.

Start a DIY gym. Use your own stairs as a stair stepper and fill water bottles or milk jugs with water for weights. You can also purchase resistance bands ($10-15) and a stability ball ($8-25) from any online retailer.

Try a high-intensity body weight workout by incorporating burpees, planks, wall sits and a cardio like jumping rope. “High intensity interval training or HIIT is really big right now,” says Caitlyn. “An example of HIIT is 30-seconds of running followed by four minutes of walking.” Caitlyn recommends beginners aim for a 15-20 minute workout.

Discover something new. Take a yoga or dance class with a friend or make it a group activity and join the kids in a rock climbing wall, trampoline park or indoor skating rink adventure.

Outdoor Workouts

Walk in the snow. Walking on uneven ground burns more calories and plowing through snow adds resistance to the legs.

Embrace the elements. Snow shoveling, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, hiking or tubing/sledding are calorie-torching activities.

Buy the right gear and it’s never too cold for an outdoor workout. Wear layers. Choose a snug, breathable shirt made of synthetic fabric for your first layer. Use fleece for your second layer and add an outer layer-jacket that resists wind and water such as Gore-Tex and nylon. Don’t forget a hat and mittens.

“Even two to three bouts of moderate exercise throughout the day is just as effective as a 30 to 60 minute workout,” says Caitlyn. If you exercise outside, Caitlyn cautions to stay hydrated even if you don’t sweat. “Because of the cold, you don’t realize how hard you’re working.”

“Just get creative,” says Caitlyn. “You can’t be active in a wrong way.”