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February 09, 2021

How to Stay Active & Healthy During Cold Winter

How to Stay Active & Healthy During Cold Winter

Even in the best of winters, many of us take a cue from grizzly bears and spend the whole season hibernating. While it may be tempting to stay inside sleeping and snacking while the snow piles up outside, staying active is a big part of keeping healthy.

Making time for movement is especially important this winter, as social distancing guidelines resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic make it easier than ever to stay sedentary for long periods.

Finding ways to exercise and maintain healthy habits is key to keeping up with your well-being as the pandemic continues this winter. Dr. Reeta Bhargava, a primary care physician with IU Health Physicians Primary Care in Westfield, shares some of the benefits of being active and making healthy choices during this snowy and socially-distant season.

Get outside and explore whenever you can.

If the weather outside isn’t too frightful, we recommend going outdoors as much as you can — even if it is a little bit cold outside. Bundling up in your favorite winter jacket and going for a walk or riding your bike are great ways to get active.

Fresh air and the outdoors help us maintain good physical and mental health. In a year where we’ve all been stuck inside our houses a lot, it’s essential to get out and enjoy nature as much as possible.

Start an indoor exercise routine.

On days when it’s really freezing outside and the idea of a socially-distanced walk around the neighborhood is enough to make you shiver and hide under the nearest blanket, there are still ways to be active indoors. While it’s true that it’s more difficult to get moving when inside, it can
be easier with the right motivation.

Start with a plan. That way, you’ll be more committed to making time and space for exercise. Have a routine pattern for indoor exercise, and make sure any equipment you need is readily available.

Make time for activity and try something new.

For indoor exercise, we recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, and you can break that time down into chunks that fit your schedule. On average, it’s about half an hour of working out five days a week.

Don't be afraid to get creative or use new tools — you can use your stairs for stair climbing, follow a workout video on YouTube, or use a fitness app on your phone that can customize workouts to your lifestyle. Some people like to walk, some people like to dance, and some people like to do yoga — it’s all great exercise.

Stay accountable and avoid making excuses.

One of the best motivators for exercise is to do it in a group, or as a social activity. The pandemic has made this much more difficult, but it’s still not impossible! You might want to set up exercise-focused video calls with friends to follow along with workout videos and hold each other accountable. Or, if you’re living with family members, you could try to get them involved and all exercise together.

Be sure to avoid falling into excuses for not exercising during the winter months. Even though it’s cold outside and there’s still a pandemic, you can still find warm and safe ways to get active. By making a few small changes to your routine and lifestyle, you’ll discover plenty of
opportunities to fit exercise into your socially-distant days.

Take the opportunity to explore new healthy eating habits.

Because of the pandemic, many things aren’t happening like they used to. You may not be eating out as much as you once did, which means now is the perfect time to explore healthy new recipes. Now, you can research healthy ingredients and consider ways to incorporate them
into your diet.

During the winter, you may not be able to get as much fresh produce as in other seasons — but frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh ones, and keep for much longer. Experiment with smoothies, try new grains like quinoa or barley, and add nuts to your diet.

Turn watching TV into more than a sedentary activity.

We’ve all experienced the temptation to sit on the couch watching TV or reading all day, especially during the pandemic. As long as you’ve made time to exercise, this isn’t necessarily so bad — but for many people, watching TV comes along with snacking on unhealthy
processed foods.

In many of our patients, we’ve seen a significant amount of pandemic weight gain as people avoid the gym and turn to TV. Being too sedentary and eating unhealthy foods can lead to adverse medical conditions, so it’s important to find ways to change these habits.

Instead of snacking while watching TV, you can try to keep your hands busy with knitting, crocheting, or a craft. Switching to books or video games may also help you keep your hands off the snacks. You can even blend your favorite media with exercise. Try listening to an audiobook
or podcast while you run, or doing yoga while your favorite TV show is on.

Maintain your health by managing your stress.

The pandemic has been stressful for us all, and may be especially stressful this winter as many of us face increased isolation. Keeping active and eating healthy can help you manage stress and anxiety, as does staying in touch with friends and family, even just virtually.

Social interaction is a part of good mental health, so it’s important to stay in contact with people you like, even when it’s difficult. If you need help during these times, be sure to seek it out — whether it’s therapy, prescribed medication, or simply time outdoors or with your family.

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