The winter blues … the winter doldrums … we’re right at that time of year when many people feel challenged to remain committed to their exercise program. This could be due to the weather, or it could be a product of settling back into routine after the excitement of the holidays. But whatever the reason, try to keep your focus on the benefits of exercise in order to sail through the winter season. PWC trainers Kimberley Siock-Cubbage, Sharon Steele and Amy Wagner chime in on how continuing to exercise can make winter a positive experience.
Kimberley points out that regular exercise releases the body’s “feel good” hormones, serotonin and dopamine, that can help reduce the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder. Two other benefits identified by Kimberley:
- Exercise can save your electric bill in addition to your waistline. How so? Winter exercise increases the body temperature, keeping us warmer – without the layers of fat.
- Regular exercise also helps strengthen the immune system, thus helping reduce or prevent colds and flu.
How about trying a new group exercise class this winter to experience these mood boosting, warmth producing and immune strengthening benefits?
Amy adds, “It’s imperative in these cold months that we continue to exercise rather than allow our bodies to go into hibernation. If you struggle to exercise in the winter, you are not alone, but be aware inactivity leads to weight gain as a result of burning less calories.” On average, that weight gain can add up to 6-8 pounds.
If you’re heading to the pool, try Amy’s suggested meditation to reduce winter’s chill, while keeping your eye on the prize: the benefits you’ll enjoy from continuing to exercise. She suggests, “Let your mind dream. Put on your bathing suit and plunge into our pool as if you are at your chosen vacation spot. Ok, so perhaps we don’t have a swim up tiki bar! But there are some definite benefits to water fitness that you may not know.”
“Water exercise offers greater joint and muscle flexibility. Muscle strength increases and balance and posture are improved,” Amy points out. “When you work out in water, resistance can range up to 42 times greater than working out on land. This resistance creates a constant workout for your muscles. Water is soothing and relaxes sore muscles. Particularly appealing is the buoyancy characteristics of water which minimize the impact placed on our bodies – especially important for persons with joint conditions or undergoing physical therapy.”
If you walk through the pool doors and can’t quite hang on to Amy’s tropical vacation meditation vibe, she suggests talking to an aquatic instructor who can help match you with the right class for you. This proactive approach is positive in itself. “Doing that is definitely a choice for the New Year that you won’t regret,” Amy says, adding one more thought that might push you to take the plunge: “A person can burn 400-500 calories in an hour depending on the activity, their weight, water temperature, volume and buoyancy.” In other words, winter weight gain won’t be anything YOU have to worry about!
Sharon recognizes the difficulties of this time of year, too. “With the holidays over and week four of our New Year’s resolutions in full swing and less hours of sunlight – that can create anxiety. If you or someone you know is dealing with an anxiety condition, it can be difficult to get out of the house and drive to the gym, let alone put your workout clothes on! And forget getting into and out of a bathing suit…yikes!! It’s enough to keep you home binge watching Game of Thrones!”
But again, taking the step toward exercise puts you on the best path. Turns out water’s resistance is good for more than muscle strength; it’s also beneficial for anxiety. “Resistance exercise significantly improves anxiety symptoms among all participants,” Sharon says. “In our pool environment, standing in chest deep water is resistance, and walking in chest deep water will increase a feeling of wellness and joy. Plus, it’s 30% more work than walking on land. Lifting weight, even light dumbbells, will give a feeling of empowerment!”
If winter leaves you feeling a bit unsettled and anxious with a case of the “Post Holiday Dulldrums” (thank you Sharon!), try to start a new exercise routine or stick with your established program. Get into the gym, jump into the pool, make a workout date with a friend. Take advantage of resources: you might hire a personal trainer or talk to group fitness instructors and fitness instructors on the fitness floor. They are all happy to share information on how you can get started or keep going with your exercise program this winter!