Winter is coming — but that doesn’t mean your workout or fitness routine has to suffer.
As the weather turns colder and allows fewer daylight hours, many people may find it more challenging to stay active, but there are helpful tips to stay physically active indoors.
“The good news is that every bit of physical activity can provide health benefits,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes on its website.
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“The key is to move more and sit less throughout the day … And there are many ways to be active wherever you live.”
Being physically active improves sleep, reduces stress and anxiety and improves balance and mood, per the CDC.
A consistent exercise regimen is also associated with reducing depression; it also helps to maintain weight and reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes; and it can lower blood pressure, the agency added.
“All healthy adults aged 18–65 years should participate in moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes [for] five days per week, or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes [for] three days per week,” according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
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“Every adult should perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days per week,” the same source noted.
People “need to distinguish between can’t and won’t.”
Fox News Digital spoke to experts about how to reach these fitness goals when the weather may not be cooperating.
Identify the real problem
“First, [people] need to distinguish between can’t and won’t,” said Professor Jack Raglin, an exercise scientist at Indiana University-Bloomington’s Department of Kinesiology.
“There certainly are times when the weather is so harsh you shouldn’t exercise outside, but in most cases it’s more a matter of won’t,” added Raglin, who studies the interaction of mind and body as it applies to competitive sports and recreational exercise.
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In some instances, dressing in layers means those layers can later be removed; and by using clothes that wick away sweat, exercise can be reasonably comfortable in the cold weather, he said.
If there are trails nearby, “you get the added dividend of scenery.”
Many people walk in the mall if going outside is not an option, he added.
Get started in the gym — and warm up
If the weather is indeed the real problem, then consider going to the gym.
“When the weather gets iffy outside, here are a few key things to keep in mind while using the gym to keep your fitness journey going and maximizing your efforts,” said Teddy Savage of Baltimore, Maryland, the head of health and fitness excellence at Planet Fitness HQ in New Hampshire.
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It’s best to first engage in a “dynamic warm-up,” he said.
This means “moving your body through [a] full range of motion to effectively activate the muscles and lubricate the joints to offset possible injury due to stiffness or tightness.”
Some examples of an effective warm-up include the bend and reach exercises, air squats, windmills, standing trunk rotations or hamstring sweeps, he noted.
Get a well-balanced workout
The optimal workout combines cardiovascular exercise with strength training in the same routine.
“After your warm-up, try using the strength equipment that targets your desired area of the body (muscle groups) and start light with the weights,” he said.
Strength equipment helps to maintain a safe posture, he added — and Planet Fitness has QR codes that gym goers can scan to learn proper form and technique.
“Following your strength exercises, fit in about 10-15 minutes of cardiovascular activity to help to improve your heart health and relax tight muscles,” he said.
He said it’s wise to use different kinds of cardio equipment, including the treadmill, the bike, elliptical or arc trainer “because they all have unique benefits and functionality.”
Remember the recovery
“Finish your workout with a good static stretching routine that is more stationary in nature and involves reaching your fullest range of motion and holding it there for 30-60 seconds,” he also said.
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Some examples of static stretches include seated hamstring stretch, child’s pose, cobra stretch or knee huggers.
These will help reduce soreness and shorten recovery times.
Exercise in the comfort of your home
If a gym is not an option, it’s possible to exercise in the comfort of your own home.
First, establish a dedicated location in your home for your workout, advise Raglin of the University of Indiana at Bloomington.
“You don’t need an entire room,” he said. “Some space in front of the TV will work — and it may help the time pass.”
The goal doesn’t have to be to duplicate your outdoor workout or gym training exactly, because the goal is to stay active with a consistent program.
But if people feel guilty about “falling short, then add a feature to your home workouts that you don’t typically do, such as functional stretching or range of motion training.”
“Use body weight exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges in place, split squats and core exercises.”
He noted that some basic equipment, such as a yoga mat and some exercise bands, can replace a lot of gym equipment.
“The biggest limitations with indoor gyms are space and equipment limitations,” added Dr. Kyle A. Kercher, assistant professor of sports management at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington.
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“One way to combat that is to use body weight exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges in place, split squats and core exercises,” said Kercher, who is also an American College of Sports Medicine certified exercise physiologist.
One simple option, he said, is to purchase a couple free weights that can be used to increase the challenge, or load, of those body weight exercises.
“With just two moderate weight dumbbells, you can do various presses, pulls/rows, squats, lunges, and hinging movements — that is, a deadlift.”
He recommended multi-joint exercises rather than single-joint exercises “because they often give you more bang for your buck.”
“I typically recommend that people to use free weights because they incorporate more balance and coordination, and they are often more readily available,” Kercher said.
Machines can be very expensive, he said; they take up space and limit our range of motion.
“Machines can be effective for gaining strength and seeing incremental increases in performance — they’re often just less accessible.”
“With that said, machines can be effective for gaining strength and seeing incremental increases in performance — they’re often just less accessible,” he said.
Be creative with home exercise
If you don’t have free weights at home, consider working out with household items to stay active, such as using full water bottles or canned goods for strength training, according to the CDC.
“Walking or running up and down stairs (that are clear of obstacles to avoid tripping) can be a great workout,” the CDC says on its website.
Online exercise videos can help people stay active at home — just make sure the videos are performed by certified exercise trainers who match your interest and ability level, per the CDC.
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And when watching television, consider doing jumping jacks during commercials or moving “along with the characters in a show or movie by walking or running in place,” the CDC notes.
“Activities like jump roping have their place, but are far too intense (and difficult) for most people to use it as a substitute,” said Raglin.
One solution, he said, could be doing some less intense high intensity training that combines the best of lower and higher intensity work with scheduled rests.
“These programs can also be purely body weight activities that don’t require equipment but still involve strength training movements,” he said.
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Some research suggests many people enjoy this form of training and that it may increase their likelihood of sticking with the program, Raglin pointed out.
The CDC also suggested thinking of chores, such as vacuuming, cleaning and sweeping, as another form of exercise. “You’ll knock out some items on your to-do list while gaining health benefits,” the CDC said.
Stay motivated and make a program
Raglin recommended people are prepared for inclement weather.
“In other words, don’t get into a situation in which you have to improvise your workout when the weather gets bad,” he said.
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Music or other forms of entertainment, such as TV, videos or podcasts, can also be a welcome distraction that can be mixed into the routine, Raglin added.
Also, consider incorporating the entire family into the workout.
The family can dance together to keep everyone active and having fun, the CDC suggests.
Children who are ages 3-5 should be active for three hours every day with different intensity levels, including light, moderate and vigorous, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
Kids who are ages 6-12 require 60 minutes of daily physical activity for their hearts, muscles and bones to stay healthy, but this time can be spread throughout the day, the sports medicine college added.
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For example, children ages 6-12 can play for 30 minutes twice a day or five to 10 minutes several times a day — but exercise should be vigorous on at least three days of the week.