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Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Tips for embracing winter wellness: Exercise

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winterThis article originally ran in the Healing Journal newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

During winter months, your exercise routine may change, and according to exercise physiologist Marc Arndt, MA that’s okay. “With the shorter days and darkness, it may not be possible to take a walk or run outdoors after work, but it may be the ideal time to focus more on an indoor strength training routine.”

Arndt suggests that people think differently about fitness during the winter and take small steps to incorporate exercise into your daily routines. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or if the weather is nicer, park your car further from the entrance to your office or the grocery store.

At the Penny George Institute – Unity Hospital in Fridley, Arndt works with people of all fitness levels, from those with no previous exercise experience to competitive athletes. He helps some through one-on-one personal training and others to simply develop a fitness routine. In as little as a one-hour fitness consult, he is able to identify goals and put together a routine to follow at home with minimal equipment.

Tips on how to incorporate exercise into the winter months

  • Try some new winter outdoor activities that offer great exercise. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, winter hiking and downhill skiing are great options. Be sure to dress for the weather with layered clothing designed to keep moisture away from skin such as wool socks and a Merino wool base layer. Snowshoeing, for example, is an exercise that just about anyone can participate in. Arndt notes that the energy expended during 15 minutes of snowshoeing is equal to that expended during 30 minutes of treadmill walking. It is also good for developing balance skills.
  • Develop a home routine. You don’t need expensive equipment or machines to start an effective home exercise routine. For strength training, a simple set of weights or resistance bands will suffice. If you do a high number of repetitions and multiple sets, you can gain as much cardiac benefit from strength training as you could on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
  • Remember that exercise helps change your mood  for the better. Even a short break in your day to incorporate physical activity will help change your hormone levels to elevate your mood. During the winter, it’s natural to feel more lethargic and a little exercise will make a world of difference. Ideally, Arndt recommends 20 to 30 minutes a day, but if that isn’t possible with your work or personal schedule, try to get in as many 10 minute periods of physical activity as possible, whether it’s taking stairs, walking indoors at your work place or taking a break for strength training.
  • Hydrate. During cold weather, you still need to hydrate. Make sure you take in as much water as you would during exercise in warm weather.
  • Window shop. In the coldest days of winter, the best exercise is walking through your local mall or shopping center. Many of the malls in the area have walking programs, with early morning or late evening hours designated especially for those seeking a warm, safe place to walk. Community sports centers may also have an inside track available for those seeking a costeffective, reliable spot to get some exercise.

Marc Arndt, MA, is an exercise physiologist at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Unity Hospital. To make an appointment with Arndt, call 763-236-5601.

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