Get out + play in the snow!
It’s winter and, for some, the cold may be reason enough to stay curled up indoors, rather than head outside for a workout. However, the cold season may just be the time when we need to get out and be most active. We spoke with Brendan Fox, fitness expert for The Weather Network, on why a winter workout is a must, as well as for a few tips on motivating oneself to bundle up and exercise!
Overall, do you see an increase or decrease of people being active in winter?
Fox says that people tend to exercise indoors during winter, and mostly work out outside during the summer months. “But people could benefit more from being outside [during winter],” he advises. Because of less exposure to UVB rays during winter, people go through a vitamin D deficiency. “Vitamin D is stored in the body for two months, and then gets depleted by January.”
How can someone get more vitamin D into their bodies?
Fox jokes that you can eat oily fish twice a day to get the amount you require, but we doubt that is an appealing option for most. So you can get it from various foods and inexpensive supplements, but hitting the outdoors is your best bet. And don’t think going for a winter car ride will cut it: “It’s a common misconception, but UVB rays don’t penetrate glass [of your car window] very well, so you actually need to be outside.”
How would you suggest people motivate themselves to go outside?
Our expert says that accountability is number one: “Human beings, by nature, are built to not let others down over letting themselves down.” So he recommends tapping into that by getting a workout buddy, or being part of a sports team, such as hockey. Fox’s other suggestion? “Bundle social time with exercise!” So if you’re planning on meeting a friend for a cup of coffee, go for a walk or run instead. And if weekly “family time” consists of hitting the movie theatre, why not try snow-shoeing or sledding? And for increased accountability, “get a dog! Dogs are great for guilting people into going for a walk.”
If you’re planning a vacation this season, Fox warns to steer clear of warm travel destinations where all you’ll do is lounge on the beach all day and drink all night. “Plan an active holiday,” he insists, “and do something fun like scuba diving or skiing!”
And if you don’t feel like heading outside?
Whether it’s with a treadmill, stationary bike or hand weights, try exercising during down time, such as when you’re watching TV. “You can even commit to exercising during one whole period of a hockey game,” Fox shares as an example.
And if you’re one who likes to multi-task, try increasing your pace while doing chores around the house, such as vacuuming. “A hurried pace increases your cardio, making breathing easier in the long run.”
Whatever you choose to do, be mindful of it: “Workout materials need to be in full view, and not tucked away in the basement.” (Remember the old adage: “Out of sight, out of mind.”) Fox suggests keeping a set of free weights by your phone or computer, either at home or at work, where you can see them, and use them when you have a few minutes.
Are people who work out in winter less likely to catch the cold or flu?
“Basically, exercise is doing the plumbing for your body,” explains Fox. “It rids your body of toxins.” And to remain healthy during the winter, he encourages people to amp up their vitamin C* intake. Orange juice seems to be everyone’s go-to vitamin C fix, but Fox shares that kiwi fruit actually has the highest amount.
Another food rich in vitamin C are red bell peppers. “Thermogenic foods, such as spicy and high-protein food, will increase your body’s internal temperature. So it’ll keep you warmer in winter and help raise your metabolism.”
Along with a good workout, what other things can people do to stay healthy this season?
“You want to look at the whole like having four wheels on a car,” he explains. We already mentioned the first two “wheels”—exercise and nutrition—above.
The third is sleep, “which helps with immunity and mental function.” Fox goes on: “The fat-burning hormone is elevated with sleep, and it also decreases the appetite hormone.”
The fourth: mental attitude. “Negative thoughts compromise your immune system. When you are stressed out, the psychological becomes physical, and then your body freaks out.” (From an evolutionary standpoint, your body acts as if it’s anticipating a famine or a drought.) And when we’re stressed, we tend to eat unhealthy foods and exercise less, which then creates a vicious circle.
*On a side note, Fox feels it is his duty to share with all divinistas that vitamin C also helps to improve the appearance of cellulite. (Oranges for orange peel skin: who knew?!) So it doesn’t only help with off-setting a cold, but has aesthetic benefits, too!