December 12, 2013 by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute  
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Staying Fit During Winter

staying fit during winter

Guidelines for Staying Fit During Winter
ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute

Tips for Winter Fitness.

    • Exercise or be active daily. Cleaning the house can be a workout, at times.
    • Try different activities during the winter. It is monotonous to do the same routine every day.
    • Performing several exercises for a shorter period of time is not as difficult as trying to stay on one machine for 30 straight minutes.
    • Fat burning is best accomplished at 60% of your maximum heart rate for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.
    • If you develop pain from your indoor exercise routine, seek medical advice/treatment from your Physical Therapist.

“Baby it’s cold outside.” Dark nights and cold days make us want to stay inside. The dreary winter months can be draining and even depressing. Part of the winter we drive to work in the dark and drive home in the dark. That enthusiasm for we enjoyed during the warmer months fades. It’s a challenge to stay engaged in a consistent workout routine when the weather and climate don’t cooperate.

Staying fit during winter is possible, but it may involve adjusting a workout routine to include more exercises in the warmth of the home. While some of the following suggestions are outside the house, most of these can be performed in the privacy and comfort of your home. By making a few adjustments, you can avoid taking off from your exercise routine for 3-4 months (or longer in some parts of the world) when the weather is not bright and sunny!

There are three key areas of fitness to maintain year round: cardiovascular, strength/endurance and flexibility exercise routines. If you sustain a habit of consistent exercise, you will see the results of your efforts. You may also want to seek the guidance of your Physical Therapist to get started or to learn the proper way to perform these exercises. They are trained healthcare professionals that can help you devise a routine that fits your needs, desires and will enable you to perform it in any setting.

Cardiovascular Exercises

The goal of a good routine in to maintain your heart rate at approximately 70% of the maximum heart rate for a minimum of 30 minutes 5 days per week. A simple formula to figure out your maximum heart rate is 220-your age x .70. (i.e. 220 – 52 = 168 x .70 = 117.6 or 118 beats per minute).

staying fit during winter

Cardiovascular Exercise ideas include:

Treadmill walking or jogging
Elliptical trainer
Speed walking in a Mall
Jumping rope
Jogging in place
Walk the stairs
Roller skate

Strength/Endurance (muscular) Exercises

In order to build strength, the muscles have to be subjected to an “over-load” of resistance. There are a variety of ways that you can incorporate overload of resistance into your routine: through body weight, free weights as well as through numerous machines and “gadgets” that provide entertainment and resistance at the same time.

Building muscular strength invovles taxing the muscles in a way that causes micro-damage to the muscle cell. This damage heals itself, and the muscle will get stronger. In most cases if you want to develop strength, you will perform 5-8 repetitions of the same exercise and perform it 5-7 times. If you can lift approximately 70-80% of your 1 repetition maximum in this manner, you will gain significant amount strength over time.

Endurance training is equally important especially in certain muscle groups (i.e. Para spinal musculature). The endurance of a muscle can be increased through lifting a lesser amount of weight/resistance at a greater number of repetitions. A good endurance program can consist of 3 sets of 15 repetitions of a weight/resistance that provides a challenge on the last 2-3 repetitions, but you can maintain good form and experience no pain.You will have to continue to add resistance when the initial amount becomes too easy. A very simple and unscientific way of gauging your maximum is to lift the desired weight. If you “struggle” to complete the last 2 repetitions, but can maintain good form and have no pain you are close to the amount of weight/resistance that you will need to use to develop strength.

The same exercises can be used for strength and endurance routines. All that must be adjusted is the amount of resistance and the number of repetitions. Performing these exercises 3 times per week is a great way to develop strength or endurance and you should not “train” on consecutive days.

Strength and Endurance ideas include:

Push ups
Dumb bell flies and presses
Theraband pull a-aparts
Various Plank routines
Theraball core routine (see our previous blog on Low back exercises)
Gym workouts with free weights or machines.
Various forms of strength training with personal trainers. Note: Take caution with certain types that require high volume, little rest and often times are under supervised.

Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility can be developed at any age and in almost anyone. Gaining flexibility and range of motion will often take extensive effort over time due to the nature of the tissue that is more like “leather” than “rubber-bands.” Essentially you must “stretch” and elongate those tissues.

There are two main types of stretching: Static and Dynamic. While both can successfully increase your flexibility, Dynamic is better suited as a pre-exercise routine. Static stretching requires many minutes of “holding” the stretch to get a “plastic” change in the tissue. Dynamic stretching is performing a movement similar to the movements of the actual activity. Unlike the activity itselt, the Dynamic stretches follow the movements at a slow, controlled pace; the motions are exaggerated to move the joint (s) throughout their full range of motion. Dynamic stretching helps to divert blood from the gut to the exercising body parts and heat up the tissues in this area. The increased blood flow and tissue temperature makes the tissue more pliable and more easily stretched

Static stretching is more successfully performed if done in the post exercise time period. The tissue temperature has risen and made it more pliable. The Static stretching process requires you to move the joint to a position where you feel a stretch and then stop and “hold” that position for a prolonged period of time. We recommend a minimum of 20 – 30 seconds. This type of stretch can never be held too long.

Stretching ideas include:

Gentle neck rolls
Neck stretchs: side to side and angled towards the arm pit
Cross arm stretch: Clasp hands behind the back and attempt to touch the elbow together
Pull each elbow behind your head
Trunk rotational stretches
Knees to chest
Hamstring stretch
Quadriceps stretch
Calf stretch: Straight knee and slightly flexed knee
Various stretching routines / classes
Partner stretching

Staying “in shape” over the winter months can be a challenge. It is definitely more difficult for most of us to be motivated to be active and enthusiastic about our exercise routines when the weather is not cooperative. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to stay fit during the doldrums of winter and many can be performed in the comfort of your home.


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