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– Grace Pearson, PA, EMMC Family Medicine, Orono
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Last June, Robert Nichols of Waterville was playing a round of golf, just like he had done hundreds of times before. But something was different this time. When he got to the fifth hole, his chest began to hurt, and he just wasn’t feeling well. Robert was having a heart attack.
Read more about the many other life-saving stories that take place every day at EMMC Heart Care.
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It’s never too difficult to think of reasons to abandon your workout routine. This is especially true during the winter months, when the temperatures drop, the sky turns dark, and the wind seems to start pushing you back indoors to the warmth of your couch. As health experts, we urge that exercise be incorporated into your everyday routine, no matter what the weather is like.
The advantages of regular exercise are too great to be put on hold when workouts become inconvenient, especially during colder months. Those who exercise regularly reduce their risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
In addition to these benefits, exercising can help with the winter blues as well. Regular workouts will improve your mood, increase your energy level, and help you sleep better at night.
There are many ways to continue your fitness regime during the winter. All it takes is a little creativity and knowing how to dress for the outdoor climate.
Fall and Winter Exercise Ideas
To battle the cold weather excuses, explore new methods of exercise, such as the following ideas:
· Take the dog for a walk: Make this a part of your daily routine, for you and for your pets.
· Walk the mall: Leave your wallet at home and use the mall as an indoor track.
· Join a health club. Choose one close to home or work and ask the staff to show you how to use the equipment. You can even set up times to see a personal trainer to push you even further.
· Join a class or indoor sports league: There are plenty of fitness classes available through community organizations or local health clubs. From dancing to boot camp aerobics, there’s bound to be a class suited to your fitness level and taste. Indoor sports like basketball, volleyball, and indoor soccer are available in this area. Research shows you are more likely to stay active when you are with a partner or a group.
· Find an indoor pool: Indoor swimming is a great way to build stamina and stay lean through winter. Whether you’re taking a dip for a water-aerobics class or swimming some laps, there are plenty of ways to enjoy water inside.
· Create a home gym or use workout DVD’s: Invest in some practical, enjoyable and easy-to-use exercise equipment. Therabands and dumbbells go a long way and can be used for many different types of exercises. Workout DVD’s offer a lot of variety without the hefty gym membership cost. When you exercise from the comfort of your own home try to limit distractions as best as possible.
· Everything counts: Vacuuming the house, raking leaves, and shoveling snow all count towards staying fit! Even if you don’t have a workout planned for the day, try to think of some way to be active.
· Get outside whenever possible: Of course, you can also continue your workouts outside in the winter and get a great workout, too. Whether it’s running, walking, snow-shoeing, skiing, or skating, you should always be wearing the appropriate amount of clothing for the various outdoor winter activities.
The key to staying comfortable and safe during outdoor winter workouts is to dress in layers. That way, as your body temperature rises during the workout, you can peel away the layers you no longer need.
Optimizing Your Outfit
Here are some guidelines for suiting up safely:
· Layer your clothes correctly: Start with a thin synthetic material, to draw sweat away from your body. Your second layer should be an insulating layer, preferably a fleece, which will keep you warm, but also allow water vapor to pass through. Finally, top with a waterproof, breathable outer layer to protect you from the winter elements.
· Cover your extremities: Pay special attention to your fingers, toes and ears, where you are most susceptible to frostbite. Remember, you lose 90% of your body heat through your head, so be sure to always wear a hat.
· Take safety precautions: If it’s dark outside, wear a reflective outer layer. If the surface of the ground is uneven due to weather conditions, choose footwear with enough traction to prevent falls. Purchasing a pair of ice cleats to go over your boots or sneakers ensures that you will have enough traction in the iciest conditions.
· Remember sunscreen: Snow reflects the sun's rays, so sunburn is possible, even if you're cold.
When it's cold outdoors, there's no need to give up and hit the couch. With a little planning and creativity, you can step up to the challenges of winter exercise and maintain your healthy lifestyle.