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The Journal Gazette

  • Montoye

Tuesday, December 01, 2015 7:47 pm

Stay active for health this winter

Alexander H.K. Montoye

As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, Hoosiers are getting in the holiday mood, but many are worried that the extra good cheer can cause the dreaded end-of-the-year weight gain. 

To keep weight in check and improve overall health – and keep holiday-related stress manageable – maintain or increase physical activity.

While this can be challenging during our cold winters and regular holiday parties, there are daily activities that can make a big difference in the way you look and feel this holiday and winter season, including:

Tip 1: Do some of your holiday shopping at stores and malls.

Instead of chasing deals online, take an opportunity to walk a few miles while shopping at the mall or big box stores. Many malls also have walking clubs during the winter, which can be a fun way to meet people and stay active during those cold months. Also, park farther from the store to increase your physical activity for the day.

Tip 2: Pedometers and fitness tracking devices make good gifts.

Pedometers and other smart trackers are great tools to help people record their activities. Research shows that devices increase activity, while fitness apps spur competition among family and friends.

Tip 3: Join a gym.

Besides offering the standard weight machines and treadmills, many gyms have pools, walking tracks and even classes such as Zumba that can make it fun to be active. Many gyms offer 24/7 access, so being active can fit anyone’s schedule.

Tip 4: Go outdoors.

Even though being out in the cold isn’t everyone’s favorite thing, layering proper clothing can make walks, runs and outdoor activities bearable. Winter walks can be great ways to see holiday decorations and get in the holiday spirit, while ice skating or skiing can be fun ways to spend time with others. Snow shoveling can be a good way to stay active and burn calories, but it can also lead to muscle injuries or even cardiovascular issues, so warm up and start small.

Tip 5: Incorporate fitness at the office.

The 9-to-5 schedule can make it difficult to squeeze in a workout, especially when the day is more like 8-to-6. But there are things you can do to increase your physical activity, including taking breaks to walk once or twice an hour and standing while talking to others or on the phone.

Conclusion: Small changes work.

It doesn’t take a dramatic lifestyle change to get or stay active and healthy. Small changes to daily routines can make the shift to being more active a painless adjustment. Over time, several small changes can make a big difference in how you look and feel and can allow you to enjoy the holidays as well as make the best of the upcoming winter.

 

Alexander H.K. Montoye is an assistant professor of clinical exercise physiology and researcher with the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University.