Memorial Regional Health: Don’t let cold weather make you sedentary — Regular physical activity should remain constant throughout year
Editor’s note: The following article is sponsored content from Memorial Regional Health
Winter in Colorado might bring snow and colder temperatures, but thanks to abundant sunshine, there’s rarely an excuse to turn into a couch potato.
But winter — and especially the holiday season — is a time when excess calorie consumption can become a fairly common occurrence. Who doesn’t love to warm up with comfort food on a cold day? Combine excessive calorie intake with physical inactivity, though, and you’ve found the recipe for weight gain.
Indulging also can lead to other bad habits, such as falling off your exercise routine when what you should be doing is exactly the opposite — increasing your workouts, both in frequency and duration, according to The Cleveland Clinic. The health risks of a sedentary lifestyle aren’t just a weight-related concern, either. Physical inactivity is a leading cause of disease and disability, according to the World Health Organization.
“Sedentary lifestyles increase all causes of mortality, double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety,” the WHO reports.
Don’t let cold weather deter you from staying active. Following are some things to keep in mind as you think about wintertime physical activity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends walking as a great way to get in physical activity.
“Walking does not require any special skills. It also does not require a gym membership or expensive equipment,” according to the CDC.
Cold weather walks can be invigorating, too, as long as you’re wearing the proper clothing. Check the weather conditions, especially the wind chill forecast, to determine whether outdoor exercise is safe and, if it is, what you should wear.
Exposed skin can be vulnerable to frostbite, depending on weather conditions. The Mayo Clinic reports the risk of frostbite is less than 5 percent when the air temperature is above 5 degrees, but wind chills can change those risks.
“At wind chill levels below minus 18 degrees F, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in 30 minutes or less. If the temperature dips below 0 degrees F or the wind chill is extreme, consider taking a break or choosing an indoor exercise, instead,” according to The Mayo Clinic.
Hypothermia — when body temperature falls below 35 degrees Celsius, or about 95 degrees Fahrenheit — occurs when your body can’t produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough, according to the American Heart Association. Symptoms include lack of coordination, confusion, slurred speech, cold feet and hands, shivering, sleepiness and slowed reactions. It can be deadly.
Exercising in cold weather, especially cold, wet weather, can increase the risk of hypothermia. The Mayo Clinic recommends dressing in layers to help stay dry during physical activity. Synthetic materials are best for staying dry, while cotton is one of the worst materials, because it stays wet next to your skin. If it’s snowing or raining, only exercise outdoors if you have waterproof gear.
Memorial Regional Health recommends staying strong to maintain a healthy weight. Strength-training is also important for endurance and injury prevention in winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing.
Some tips for gaining strength include daily stretching, even for just 5 to 10 minutes, to maintain flexibility; weight-bearing resistance training three to four times per week; using hand weights or resistance exercises at home; or joining an exercise class.
Cardiovascular exercise needs vary, depending on various health factors and age, but the American Heart Association says adults generally need 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity.