Even in sunny California, it can be easy to abandon good exercise habits at this time of year, when days are short and the weather grows colder. As a 16-year Colorado native, I’m well aware how challenging it can be to stay fit during the winter months.
Following are some simple, effective ways to keep yourself and your family active throughout the winter – whether you prefer to exercise indoors or outdoors. Encourage your children to be active with you – this is one of the best ways to help them grow to be healthy adults.
Create a home gym. You don’t need expensive equipment or a lot of space to get a good workout. Most of us can find a small spot to do yoga or an exercise video. Strength-train your major muscles with hand weights, resistance bands or even a heavy soup can.
Dance. Dance around your living room with your family or gather your friends for a night out on the dance floor.
Climb stairs. At home or at the office, take the stairs as often as possible. Climb up and down until you break a sweat.
Jump rope. This intense exercise can be done anywhere and it’s a fun workout for children.
Be a “domestic athlete.” Cleaning closets and washing windows or floors can count as exercise. Encourage your children to participate as well – think how much faster the housework will be done.
Join a gym or take a fitness class at a community center. Many health clubs offer a wide range of activities, from kickboxing to indoor swimming, for both adults and children.
Head outdoors, but do so safely. Dress in warm layers and wear reflective clothing. Start slowly. In colder weather, your body will take longer to warm up.
Turn social activities into physical activities. Get together with friends for an afternoon hike or a game of tennis. Research shows that women who exercise with friends are more likely to lose weight and have healthier lifestyles than those who exercise alone.
Participate in seasonal activities. If traveling to higher elevations or heading to snowy destinations, embrace cold-weather sports such as skiing, snowshoeing and ice-skating. Even building a snowman is a good workout.
Join an indoor team league. Consider joining an indoor soccer, volleyball or basketball team and signing your children up for group sports.
The key to cold-weather exercise is to vary activities so you don’t get bored. Set a schedule. Decide which days you will definitely exercise – have backup options for days when weather prohibits some of your choices.
Don’t wait for the last-minute panic of swimsuit season. It’s time to get off the sofa and kick-start your winter workout strategy.
This will help you stay true to your fitness and health goals and will teach your children healthful habits that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Lisa Samuelson is a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Palo Alto Center.
The PAMF and column editor Arian Dasmalchi provide this monthly column.