Stephanie Bouquet, MS, RD, CSSD, CDCES
SB Nutrition Consulting
How many months has it been since partial or full lockdown, thanks to Covid?
And now the weather just makes it one more reason not to leave the house and go for a walk.
Afterall, the winter months bring colder temperatures, guaranteed precipitation and extended hours of darkness to the day. These components can add up quickly as a sure fire recipe of forgoing daily exercise in favor of inactivity and hibernation.
Current exercise guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise, plus two days per week of strength training.
Great. More things to feel badly about if you’re not meeting those minimums, but it’s never to late to start and reap all the positive aspects that will come to all the systems that make up your body.
The benefits of exercise are numerous including weight management, improved mental health, increased energy and lowering the risk of disease development. Exercise becomes even more important in the winter flu months as a way to keep the body’s immunity high.
Studies show that regular, moderate exercise can boost our immunity and actually work to decrease the occurrence of the common cold and viruses. Exercise produces a positive immune response in the body that increases the body’s production of bacteria killing cells known as macrophages. If done moderately and consistently, exercise can lead to overall improved immunity and a sick-free winter.
All types of exercise will provide benefits to the body. Aerobic (meaning “with oxygen”) exercise helps to pump blood through the body, utilize calories and keep organs healthy. Common aerobic activities include: walking, jogging, cycling, hiking and swimming.
Strength training or anaerobic (meaning “without oxygen”) helps to keep body muscle mass intact and promote strong bones. Anaerobic activities include: pushups, leg squats, leap frog jumps, dumbbell repetitions and abdominal crunches. It is a combination of these two types of exercises that will give the body the best benefit in the shortest amount of time.
Here are a few ideas to help you stay on track with your exercise workouts during the winter months:
Schedule a Time:
Going to the doctor, a dentist or even getting a haircut requires an appointment. Think of exercise as a daily appointment for your health. Prioritize a time in your day that is reserved only for exercise. There is not one time of the day that is more opportune than another to exercise, but rather the consistent application that makes the difference. Some studies have shown that exercising in the morning hours may prove more successful for some as other tasks will not likely get in the way.
Enlist a Buddy:
Research has shown that having a friend along to exercise will create a sense of accountability and promote better adherence. If you know that you have made a date to meet someone for an early morning exercise session, you will be less likely to hit the snooze button and stay in bed. Exercising with another person also contributes to improved mental health as this can become a time to problem solve, express emotion and further develop friendships.
Split up Workouts:
If carving out 30 minutes of time to exercise in the day seems like a daunting task, find shorter segments of time throughout the day to cumulatively reap the health benefits exercise provides. For example, plan 10 minutes of jumping jacks in the morning before work, take 10 minutes at lunch to continuously walk up and down a flight of stairs at the office, and reserve 10 minutes in the evening to do sit ups and pushups during the commercial segments of your favorite TV show.
Who says you can’t do anything else but exercise at one time? Try to combine multiple tasks for greater efficiency. If you walk on a treadmill, listen to books on tape or get caught up on a recorded TV program. Or add a portable desk on top of your treadmill so you can walk and work.
Keep a cleaner house at the same time you keep your body fit by reaching and lunging repetitively while vacuuming, dusting or even putting clothes away in drawers and closets. If you find you have idle time while waiting to pick up a child from school or a sport practice, take a brisk walk (weather permitting) or indoor walk the perimeter of a shopping mall instead of sitting inactively in the car.
Need some inspiration of some quick, easy workouts you can do by watching an online video? Check out Vitality 4 Life: https://vitalityfl.com
As an adjunct to daily exercise, remember these lifestyle recommendations as well:
Keep Fluid Intake Adequate
Dehydration reduces the body’s ability to fight off infection. Fluids help to filter out of the body unwanted germs and bacteria Besides drinking water, fluids are also put into the body through naturally water rich food sources like dairy products, soups, fruits and vegetables.
Eat a Well Balanced Diet:
Fueling the body with a well balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats and lean proteins will keep the body in balance. Antioxidant rich foods can also promote a strong immune system. Include foods rich in Vitamin C (tomato, broccoli, spinach, citrus fruits), Selenium (whole grains like popcorn, oatmeal, quinoa), Vitamin E (eggs, nuts seeds, nut butters) and Zinc (lean proteins like chicken or turkey). Fatty fishes like salmon and tuna also contain Omega 3 Fatty Acids which fight inflammation.
Get Enough Sleep:
Your body needs 7-8 hours of nightly sleep to regenerate. Chronic lack of sleep can affect energy levels, hormonal balance and food choices. Establishing consistent bedtime routines promote optimal sleep patterns.
Keep in mind that exercise doesn’t have to be done in a gym or through an organized program to reap the benefits. With just a little imagination and creativity, it is possible to stay fit until the warm spring sunshine fills the sky again.