Health Secondary Story

Sue Ann Says: Choose to Stay Active This Winter!

Gray skies, frigid winds and icy sidewalks do not make exercise workouts the first choice for women in winter. Wouldn’t you rather stay snuggled up in a blanket, drink some hot tea and watch a movie? I would. Instead I choose to be healthy by finding new and exciting ways to exercise in winter. Mind you, exercise does not mean you have to go outside in 18 degree weather and run a marathon. Finding quick and warm ways to excise can benefit your heart, cut back on the risk of diabetes and help prevent depression. This month let’s look at some innovative ways to sneak in some exercise while not freezing our nose and toes.


Isn’t Exercise in the Summer Enough for Me?

Your body needs to move all year long. An exercise schedule that only transpires during the warm months will not provide the paybacks that a yearlong schedule can provide.

Any time of the year that you exercise, you can:

  • Prevent heart and cardiovascular diseases
  • Decrease your chance of Type 2 diabetes
  • Increase endorphins to improve mood
  • Improve your mood with natural light
  • Increase good (HDL) cholesterol
  • Improve your blood pressure
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Reduce your levels of stress

Start at Home

When Old Man Winter is blowing at your door, find exercises you can do indoors that won’t strain your bank account. Put on your favorite exercise gear and shoes. Pop in an exercise DVD that you find at your local library and move to the music, or watch a free video online. Lift one or two pound weights while you watch the news. You can purchase inexpensive weights, mini resistance bands or Pilate’s circles to build strength and flexibility in your arms and legs. Clean the house with some heart pumping music.

If you have the ability to have a stationary bike, treadmill or stair climber at home, be sure to make the activity fun so that you do not become bored and skip your routine.

Add a book to your treadmill or put the TV on an upbeat show to keep your legs moving at a brisk pace.

Seek Alternative Exercise Sites

Call up a friend for motivation and plan a date to walk at a local school, church or mall.

When you find a place with some stairs, add these into your route to increase your heart rate and build stronger leg muscles.

On less frigid days, you can choose the local parks to stroll through. Walking on a chilly day is invigorating and helps fight stress and frustration. Check the temperature before you hit the streets to make sure there is not a wind chill advisory or warning. Wear shoes with correct traction for the weather and don’t forget to bring along water.

Mayo Clinic states “One of the biggest mistakes you can make when exercising in cold weather is to dress too warmly. Exercise generates a considerable amount of heat — enough to make you feel like it’s much warmer than it really is. The evaporation of sweat, however, can make you lose heat from your body and feel chilled. The solution? Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat and then put back on as needed. First, put on a thin layer of synthetic material, such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin. Next, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.” (

Take some time to research local fitness classes. You can find creative ways to move through a class with a trainer who will lead you in the exercises. For example a

20/20/20 class breaks an hour into different types of cardio exercises, strength training and builds in core exercises to develop your abdominal and back muscles. Different levels of intensity allow any person to strive for fitness at their own pace.

If you are out of town in a new city, dress up in your warm winter outer gear and sightsee. You may find a unique craft store or quaint book shop while you are burning calories. Museums provide great opportunities to enjoy art or history and build in your daily walk.

Jump in the Pool!

Many communities now have indoor pools or school pools that allow citizens to use for swimming laps or water aerobics. A freestyle swim for one hour will burn around 590 calories swimming fast or 412 calories at a slower pace. You can burn around 190 calories during 40 minutes of water aerobics. Swimming is a low impact activity so your joints won’t be jarred as if you were pounding the pavement. Swimming helps you develop the deep stabilizing muscles in your core and lower back that women often miss.

Discuss Your Plans with Your Doctor

Have a heart to heart with your health provider to make sure the exercise plans you are developing are approved for your current health conditions. Whether you set goals to work on cardio enhancement, flexibility or muscle conditioning, I know you can find ways to move this winter. Get up! Get out! Move!

Because it all begins with a healthy woman…

Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit or call 1-800-448-5148.

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