by JULIA DUONG
The transition from winter to spring is often rainy and cold, which conjures up thoughts of snuggling in a warm blanket with a hot chocolate in hand, drifting between napping on the couch, and changing the channels on the TV. Even the most motivated exercising go-getters are tempted by this couch potato habit. However, knowing how to stay on-the-go despite the weather or season is incredibly important for a healthy lifestyle. According to a 2008 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers determined that people who exercised at least five times a week had up to 46 percent fewer sick (4.41 sick days) than those who only exercised one day a week or less (8.18 sick days). Moreover, these symptoms were milder
for the active go-getters. It takes a little bit more effort, but your health is worth the extra time. Moreover, failing to workout during the cold and rainy season can cause weight gain and loss of muscle strength, tone, and endurance. Here is your handy guide to having fun and staying active this season!
Debunking the Myths: Motivating Yourself
As possibly unappealing as exercising during the cold and rainy seasons sounds, perhaps start by writing down reasons why it is beneficial to exercise. Having goals in mind makes it easier to be decisive and focused. Physiologically, moving around in the cold is important because it helps prevent chest infections, prevents blood vessels from constricting and blood from thickening (which in return, reduces the risk of a heart attack).
Still having reservations? Here we debunk some myths readers might have based on the American Heart Association (AHA):
Myth 1: There’s not enough daylight.
Myth buster: If daylight is a problem, remember you can always make laps around a nearby mall or grocery store, as they typically open early and close late. To get the most benefit during the day, exercise in the morning if possible, as physical activity has been shown to enhance energy levels and promote a positive state of mind. A 2006 study done by the Canadian Medical Association demonstrated “irrefutable evidence” of the benefits of exercise, citing the concrete prevention of many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer as well as premature death. Try to avoid intense physical activity within three hours of bedtime, as it can make restful sleep difficult.
Myth 2: I don’t have time.
Myth buster: The AHA recommends exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, which can reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease. The same benefits also apply in three 10 minutes intervals. a 2001 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reported that “three 10-minute bouts of exercise, and two 15-minute bouts, and one 30-minute bout” were all equally effective in reducing body fat.
Myth 3: All video games are bad for your physical activity levels.
Myth buster: Active-play video games can be part of a realistic approach to fitness. According to a 2010 American Heart Association and Nintendo Video Game Company survey, 68 percent of people who play active-play video games have begun a new real-life fitness activity like walking, tennis, or jogging since they started playing the games. Dr. Barry Franklin of Beaumont Hospital in Michigan states, “It’s not meant to replace physical activity; it’s meant to get people off the couch and moving in the right direction. We believe, although we don’t yet have conclusive data, that this may lead more people to become physically active in their day-to-day lives.”
Oh baby it’s cold outside: Staying warm, cozy, and safe
If there are people on the freezing east coast who still manage to make physical activity a priority in the cold season, there’s no excuse for the Californian residing in the sunny-in-the-winter state! To make exercising more comfortable, here are some tips to keep you warm and, more importantly, safe when you venture outside for exercising:
1. Getting out of bed.
Put workout clothes in the dryer for a few minutes when you wake up. The heat from the clothes will make it easier to get out of bed.
2. Warm up properly.
Cold temperatures tighten the muscles, causing them to be more prone to injuries. So before stretching, warm up with some light walking or slow jogging for about five to 10 minutes. Focus on the major muscle groups such as calves, thighs, shoulders, and neck, emphasizing regions that will be extensively used during the work-out. Make sure not to bounce as you stretch, which can cause the muscles to tear and leave scar tissue, making flexibility less attainable and more prone to pain. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds, repeating three or four times. Finally, expect tension while stretching, not pain! Regular stretching can help increase one’s motion, decrease the possibility of injury, and improve performance.
Dressing too warmly can cause overheating and sweat, which as soon as it starts to dry, chills you. The key to dressing warmly yet allowing body temperature to be regulated is layering. Start with a base, “breathable” layer like polypropylene that allows sweat to evaporate. Next, add a thicker, warmer, and drier layer of fleece or wool. Finally, you’ll want a jacket that is water and weather resistant, but still breathable. If you exercise at night, especially since the day periods are now shorter, remember to wear reflective material.
If the weather causes wet socks and cold feet, consider a goretex lined or waterproof shoes, or a waterproof seam sealer to make your current running sneakers more water resistant. Light trail shoes are also an option, which provide better traction and a wider toe box to allow breathing room and feet support.
Stay hydrated! You can become just as dehydrated in cold and rainy weather as in the summertime due to sweating, breathing, and increased urine production, but it is more difficult to realize due to the cold weather. Drink plenty of water.
5. During exercise.
If during running you start to lose feelings in your toe, try to make a fist with the toes or do some calf raises to get the blood pumping. Most of the time, numb toes are due to a footwear or circulatory issue. After exercising, elevate your feet to relieve the pressure. However, if the tingling sensation persists, frostbite may have occurred, and a physician should be contacted.
In addition, it may hurt to breathe while running in the cold due to the temperature drop of the pulmonary system. Often times, the cold, dry air causes irritation and inflammation. Home remedies include sipping on tea with lemon after a run to moisten the trachea and five minute steam showers, which allow you to inhale deeper.
Don’t remove the layers immediately when returning indoors, and give your body time to adjust. Post exercise hypothermia (when the body rapidly loses its heating stores) is possible.
Sunscreen is vital even without any visible sunshine.
Wear UVA and UVB ray blocking sunscreen of at least SPF 30. UVA, known as the tanning ray, can over time damage skin cells called keratinocytes, which is the origin of skin cancers. Tanning results from the skin’s DNA being damaged; as a result, the skin darkens in an ill attempt to prevent further DNA damage. UVB, on the other hand, penetrates the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers, causing skin reddening and sunburn. Use lip balm that contains sunscreen. Protect your eyes with goggles and glasses if you’re going into the snow! Due to its white color, snow can reflect up to 85% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, demonstrating that sunburns in the snow are often times much worse than in the summer.
8. Known the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
Frostbite: Most common on exposed skin such as cheeks, nose, ears, hands and feet. Symptoms include a loss of feeling, numbing, and a stinging sensation. Go indoors immediately and slowly warm the affected area (do not rub). Seek emergency care if necessary.
Hypothermia: Symptoms include shivering, slurred speech and fatigue. Seek emergency care immediately.
9. Try exercising indoors.
Use instructional videos, try interactive video games like Wii Fit and the Kinect, do yoga, anything to get you moving! Utilize the Wooden Center, which will provide you with a greater plethora of equipment and supervision. Take some of the recreational classes there with a friend.
While a variety of factors such as cold weather and shortage of daylight contributes to the urge to stay in a warm bed all day, the key is staying motivated. Use this guide to make it easy and comfortable to keep up with regular physical activity.
Spring 2012 | Vol. 12 | Issue 3