Are you the type who is full of energy when the sun comes out, ready to run those laps at the crack of dawn, but would rather retreat under the covers when the cold, dark winter arrives? Exercise physiologists agree that the winter months can be ruinous to some people's fitness routines.
Keeping up a daily or weekly aerobic activity throughout the year though is important to your health. From circulation, to metabolism, to heart health, aerobic activity is the mainstay of your physiological fitness.
To help you jump the hurdles of excuses to lay like a yule log this winter—instead of keeping your heart pounding and your energy high—consider making some small adjustments to your activity routine.
First, give yourself time to acclimate. It’s normal for your energy levels to fluctuate as the climate changes. Even if you are bringing your activity indoors, the change of seasons still requires some mental and biological adjusting. If you are more energetic when the weather is warm and the sun is out, it can take some time to get used to the cold and shorter days.
Our circadian rhythms, especially at the close of a season, set our inner alarm clock to wake our brains at sunlight, not according to the time on the clock. Even if you are already a dedicated gym member, the darker days can sap your energy and kill your motivation.
If a warm and bright gym are still no match for the cold and dark, consider putting a treadmill or stair climber machine in your home. You can tailor your routine to include watching a video or your favorite TV program during your workout.
If cold and darkness still discourages you from your usual morning exercise, give yourself something to look forward to later in the day and schedule a yoga, tai chi or other exercise class during your lunch hour.
Here are the top five aerobic exercises and how you can adapt them to the indoors when colder weather prevents you from enjoying the great outdoors.
Top 5 Aerobic Exercises for Winter
Walking is one of the simplest, low-tech and readily available aerobic exercises. Whether walking on a treadmill at the gym, at the mall, or even zipping through your hallways at work, you can get work in a good indoor walk at a moment’s notice.
Other than a good pair of walking shoes, it does not require any special equipment. You can walk almost anywhere, and almost every walk counts for burning calories and decreasing stress. Walking is meditative, gets your heart rate up, works stress out of your muscles, improves lung capacity and is easier on joints than running or cycling.
Cycling on a stationary bike provides another good aerobic workout. Cycling may be a better alternative than walking if you have arthritis, orthopedic problems, or are unable to walk for an extended period of time without pain or difficulty. You can also combine walking and cycling for a cardiovascular workout that cuts down the time you are doing either exercise.
Cycling is also a good choice for people who are more than 50 pounds overweight. It helps the heart without putting stress on your back, hips, knees and ankles that walking can cause.
Swimming is an excellent aerobic exercise and, fortunately, most gyms have pools. Swimming is ideal for those you want to avoid any stress on their joints.
Because swimming focuses on upper body muscles, however, it is less efficient at overall body toning, muscle building and cardiovascular strengthening than cycling or walking. It is also easier to quickly raise your heart rate range with swimming so those with heart conditions should use caution.
Water aerobics and water walking are also excellent and fun alternatives for those with joint pain.
4. Aerobic Dance
If you are the type that gets bored with jogging or calisthenics, aerobic dance will spice things up. You’ll break a sweat and get your heart rate dancing.
You can make your own routine, say 15 to 30 minutes a day while creating your own choreography.
Aerobic dancing will help you lose weight and, if done for half an hour can burn between 300 to 400 calories. It is a fun way to break out of the gym circuit rut while still toning and building your muscles. And, you’ll be less self conscious dancing indoors than on display in the park!
Although yoga tends to be less vigorous than other forms of aerobic exercise, it does tone the body, improve circulation and align the skeleton, which are similar desirable outcomes of other aerobic exercise.
Some forms or poses, such as bowing, Sun Salute, Navasana or Stretch Pose (lying on your back or stomach while holding your torso and legs off the mat) and ‘duck walk,’ where you walk low to the ground in squatting position, can really work your muscles and burn calories.
Anyone who has ever attempted to hold Stretch Pose for 3 minutes can attest to its core-heating and Dahn-jon activating qualities.
Come out of hibernation by incorporating any of these activities into your weekly workout to stay fit and energized all winter long!