LEWISTOWN - Though most people prefer a warm bed and fluffy covers to the cold chill of a daily run, health experts advocate continued exercise and activity throughout the winter months to keep up personal health and fitness levels.
People are more likely to talk themselves out of exercise in the winter because of the limited daylight and decreased temperatures, said Dr. John Pagnotto, medical director and family medicine physician at Geisinger-Lewistown. But, regular exercise and activity remains just as important, if not more so, during the winter, he said.
"A lot of people feel, in order to call it exercise, you have to go for a run or something equally as rigorous, but any physical activity is good," Pagnotto said. "Take advantage of the season and get involved in winter sports like skiing, ice skating or snowboarding. Even building a snow fort or snowman with your kids is good exercise."
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Instructor Terri Whitsel leads a Zumba class Tuesday evening at TAZ Fitness in Burnham.
Walking is another excellent calorie burner and can be continued throughout the winter, said Virginia Wray, director at the Center for Weight Management and Nutrition in Lewistown. Those who tend to walk in the morning or after work should alter the time of workout and choice of clothing, she added.
"Try to walking during your lunch hour so you're outside at the warmest part of the day," Wray said. "Make sure to wear multiple thin layers, rather than a heavy coat, as well as gloves and a hat to preserve body warmth."
It's also important to stay hydrated during outdoor activity because it's more difficult to sense thirst when it's cold outside, Wray said. Make sure to carry a water bottle and drink water after the workout, she added.
Those who prefer to stay out of the cold should try some indoor workout classes like Zumba, yoga or kick boxing, Pagnotto said. Many gyms also have winter memberships which provide access to cardio machines, weight training equipment and group classes, he added.
"If you're new to gym workouts, make sure to take it step-by-step and find what really works for you," Pagnotto said. "However, make sure to clear any rigorous routines with a personal physician."
The library is another good resource for finding new exercise routines, Wray said. DVD workouts can be checked-out for cheap and there is usually a large variety of choices, she added.
Besides staying fit, exercising during the winter also keeps the immune system strong, lowering the risk of flu or virus contraction in the winter, Wray said. If someone does get a cold or the flu, regular exercise can decrease the severity of symptoms by 40 percent, she said.
Staying active is also helpful for those with seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that occurs in the fall and continues into the winter months, Pagnotto said. Physical exercise helps to relieve stress and anxiety, by releasing endorphins, and staying fit makes people feel better about themselves which can lift their mood, he added.
"Once people start avoiding exercise, it becomes harder and harder to get back into the routine," Pagnotto said. "It's alright to set realistic expectations for winter workouts, but it's important to stay active in one form or another."