Winter, in some places, is characterized by subzero temperatures, snow, freezing rain, and harsh winds. In other places, even with positive degree temperatures, winter is a cold period that does not encourage too many outdoor activities. It is common knowledge that people bundle up in their sweaters, jacket, boots, neck warmers, and gloves before stepping out. One might wonder if people can exercise in such weather. This article will address that aspect and provide insights into the kind of exercises that can be performed in the winter.
Importance of Winter Exercise
Exercise is always important to improve the immune system and to increase the energy levels in the body. Exercise can help you avoid the winter blues
Tips to Exercise in the Winter
Winter is a time for sporting activities, such as skiing, ice-skating, and ice hockey, among others. However, winter exercises and sports are not just restricted to the above. One can perform their regular exercises in an enclosed area or outdoors by dressing appropriately. The following tips are useful when deciding to exercise in the winter.
- Dressing up in layers: The key factor for dressing in winter is to dress in layers. When exercising, one releases heat and hence starts to feel warm. Overdressing can cause a person to feel very hot after exercising, despite the cold weather. It is recommended that one does not wear a fabric that absorbs the perspiration and remains wet (eg, cotton). Instead, fabrics that absorb the moisture without sticking to the body are recommended as the first layer. A fleece jacket or sweater can be worn as a second layer, followed by a waterproof outer jacket. While running or exercising, as the body feels warm, the outer layer of clothing can be removed to cool down the body. Once the exercising is done, the layers can be worn back.
- Get the body in shape: Prior to venturing out for any rigorous winter sports or activities, it is advisable that people expose their bodies to some vigorous exercises. Unless the body is used to an intense exercise regiment, it will be unable to bear the strain of skiing or running in the winter.
- Protective gear: When stepping out into the cold, one must ensure that the mouth, the hands and the feet are covered, and the eyes, the head and the neck are protected. Covering the mouth causes warm air to be breathed in and out, preventing any respiratory infections or angina pain. When out in the cold, the blood in the body flows to the center leaving the extremities (fingers, toes, ears) very cold. The fingers and toes can be protected with gloves and thermal socks or 2 layers of socks. This retains the heat and keeps the extremities warm. The eyes can be protected from the glare of the snow or ice with the aid of sunglasses. When the head and neck are covered, it prevents the loss of nearly 50% of the body heat.
- Wind chill factor: The wind chill factor is the drop in actual temperature experienced due to the wind. Hence, it is advisable to start running in the direction of the wind. However, to end the exercise and return home, it is advisable to run in the opposite direction of the wind. At the end of the exercise, the perspiration makes the body cooler and when the wind does not blow into the face and the body, the individual feels less chilly.
- Drink lot of fluids: Exercising in the winter is just as strenuous and the body gets dehydrated. Hence, it is recommended to drink a lot of water or sports drinks. Juices contain a large quantity of sugars or carbohydrates and are not useful for hydrating the body. Sports drinks have fewer carbohydrates. However, drinking too many sports drinks can increase the number of calories in the body.
- Do not drink alcohol: The body loses heat when alcohol is consumed. Hence, alcohol should be avoided when going out in the winter as it may lead to hypothermia or frostbite. The condition hypothermia signifies an extremely low body temperature leading to drowsiness, slurred speech, clumsiness, limited control over limbs, and shivering, among others. Frostbite occurs in children and adults. Children lose heat more easily than adults. In the superficial frostbite the skin turns yellow but remains soft, while in the deep frostbite the skin turns hard and has a waxy texture. On thawing, the skin turns purple or blue.
Winter workouts at home
The winter weather can be a hindering factor to continue exercising. The cold can be a good excuse for many to stay indoors and remain warm and cozy. Yet, the weather need not be an excuse to stop remaining fit. You can do workouts at home and keep up the fitness regime. Given below are some exercise regimen (regimen is a plan or a diet course, whereas regiment means to control or command) that can followed and help maintain a fit and healthy body.Yoga
– Yoga helps maintain body flexibility. The good thing about yoga is that it can be performed anywhere, at home, at work, or in the gym. Yoga has warm-up routines as well as stretching and strengthening exercises
for all the limbs of the body. The warm-up routines include running on the spot, stretching the back forwards and backwards, rotating the neck to the side, up, down, left, and right, bending the knees, stretching the hands upwards and to the side, among others. Surya Namaskar is a complete exercise that involves stretching all the limbs of the body and improving the airways through measured breathing techniques. Yoga has exercises for the back, stomach, shoulders, legs, hands, neck, head, and chest. It is a great way to ensure all the organs of the body are exercised and flexible.
– As recommended by the National Health Services, UK, a 6-minute warm-up routine involves marching on the spot for 3 minutes, stretching the leg and digging the heel alternately for 1 minute, lifting the knee (while standing) alternately for 30 seconds, bending the knees alternately (as if going to sit) with arms outstretched and coming up (30 seconds). Finally, the shoulders can be rotated forwards 10 times and backwards 10 times. Body-toning routine
– In this routine, the stomach, arms, legs, and back are exercised. In the stomach routine, lie down and bend the knees by resting the feet in line with the rest of the body. Keep the hands behind the ears and slowly raise the elbows 3 inches from the ground. Return to the normal position and repeat 15 to 20 times. This is also known as the ‘stomach crunch’.
A similar exercise can be performed for the back, where the individual lies on the chest with legs stretched out and the feet touching the ground. With the fingers touching the ears or the temple, slowly raise the shoulders at least 3 inches from the ground and then return to the normal position. This exercise can be repeated 15 to 20 times. This exercise improves the posture. The back and the stomach exercises can be performed in multiple sets.
Knee squats can be done in 2 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. In this case, the individual bends the knees by keeping the back straight and stretching out the hands. It appears as if the individual is going to sit. After bending the knees, until the thighs are parallel to the floor, the individual can resume the standing position. This exercise helps in firming the thighs and the buttocks.
Push-ups are performed by resting the palms below the shoulder and by stretching the elbows out. The face is kept facing the ground. The knees are bent to touch the floor. Lift the hands so the chest moves at least 2 inches away from the ground and then slowly return to resting position. In the full push-up, the knees are stretched and kept away from the ground with the feet resting on the ground. In the reverse process, with the face facing upwards, support the torso with the hands by placing the palms (face of the palm downwards) on the floor. Bend the knees, keep the feet on the ground, and slowly lift the body from the floor with the support of the hands. This exercise is known as the triceps dip. This can be repeated 12 to 15 times.
A resistance band is used to stretch out the hands slowly to either side while standing with the legs apart. Keeping the legs together, the hands can be bent upwards to touch the shoulders with the resistance band. This is known as the bicep curl. This can be repeated in duplicate for 12 to 24 times. In addition, you can use the resistance band to stretch your hands upwards or to stretch each leg forwards (lunges) by keeping the back straight, and bend while stretching the hands upwards. Each of these exercises can be performed 12 to 24 times. Lunges help in keeping the thighs and the buttocks firm.
Raising the calf helps in giving shape to the calves and the legs.
A familiar yogasan called Chakrasan involves lying on the back, lifting the knees, and resting the feet on the ground. Keeping the palms face down on the floor, lift the buttocks and back away from the ground. This exercise is good to maintain firm buttocks and is called the bridge exercise.
A unique way to take care of the love handles in the body is to perform the stomach routine. However, instead of keeping both hands near the ears, stretch one hand out in the direction you want to partially turn the body. Lift the legs off the ground.
For those who prefer more vigorous exercise, the cardio routine
can provide the necessary energy workout. This routine includes, star jumps, rocket jumps, squats, burpees, and tap backs. Star jumps – Keep the hands by the side, standing tall, jump up with the legs and hands apart before landing softly on the feet. The rocket jumps involve jumping up with the hands stretched upwards. Tap back is stretching one leg backwards while bending the other knee forward. Stretch out both hands alternately and repeat the stretch with the second leg. Burpees involve squatting with the knees together and the palms on the floor. With the support of the hands, jump and stretch the legs backwards like a push-up. Similarly, jump back to the squatting position and then jump upwards like a rocket jump.Stretching exercises
– These exercises are recommended at the end of a workout, where the calf muscles, thigh muscles, leg muscles, and buttock muscles are stretched.
Winter running workouts
Running in the winter can be possible if you dress appropriately. Always dress in layers and remove a layer when you start to feel warm. When beginning a run, remember to run in the direction of the wind. Do the opposite when returning as you will be cooling off and do not need the cold wind to cool you even further.
Winter baseball workouts
Winter need not discourage you to play baseball. One can improve on muscle endurance skills, pitching techniques, and hitting techniques by working on the arm techniques. This does not involve actually hitting the ball but practicing with a stationary ball. The idea is to get the mechanics of pitching and hitting down to a flawless routine.
Other exercise routines for the winter
Another option of working out during the winter is to hit the gym. A local gym offers a wide array of exercise activities like:
- Martial arts
Clothes for winter exercise
As mentioned, always dress in loose layers when stepping out to exercise in the cold. The first layer should be a thin layer and preferably not cotton. A technical running fabric is recommended to absorb the sweat and to keep the body dry. This can be followed up with a fleece jacket or a waterproof jacket depending on the weather. If the weather is very cold, a third jacket can be worn over the fleece jacket. Inner jackets with mesh lining can help sweat escape from the body. Below the shorts or tracksuit, a pair of leggings or tights must be worn. Heat-resistant fabrics help in keeping the body warm while exercising in the cold. The head should be covered with a warm cap, while the hands must be protected with gloves. Good running shoes and socks must be worn to protect the feet.