Staying active in the winter can be challenging, especially if you like to be outdoors. But maintaining an active lifestyle year-round will keep your muscles strong, improve your physical health and help you manage health conditions like joint pain. In this article, our orthopaedic specialists offer tips on winter exercise and staying active despite the colder weather.
Benefits of Winter Exercise
Regular exercise improves your physical health, reduces the risk of disease and strengthens your muscles, bones and joints. It also helps with managing your weight, and it improves your mood. Exercising regularly can help manage symptoms of a chronic health condition.
Exercise for older adults can improve physical function for everyday activities like climbing stairs, doing laundry or playing with grandkids.
From an orthopaedic perspective, regular exercise helps to increase the flexibility of your joints. The tissue surrounding your joints produces synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant to help the bones move smoothly. Exercise helps to improve the circulation of this fluid, which helps keep your joints flexible and mobile.
Exercise also helps with bone health. As you age, bone tissues change, and inactivity can cause them to become brittle and fragile, which can lead to osteoporosis.
Resistance training with hand weights or exercises using your body weight strengthens the muscles, ligaments and tendons around your joints. That helps with stability, which reduces the risk of injury.
Stretching exercises promote flexibility, increase blood flow to your muscles and help with balance.
With all those benefits in mind, it is important to stay active in the winter. Here are a few winter exercise ideas to get you started.
Ways to stay active in the winter
Winter exercise at home
Stay active from the comfort of your own home with online videos. If you use streaming services like Amazon Prime or Hulu, there are many options for indoor exercise.
If you have extra room in your house, set up a small gym with a few weights or a treadmill so you can stay active year-round. Here’s our guide to the ten best at-home exercises for arthritis.
Join a gym
Find a local gym nearby for a quick drive to get your workout in a few times a week. If you usually enjoy walking outdoors, look for a gym with an indoor track. Most gyms offer group classes if you are interested in working out with people.
Take the stairs
If you live in an apartment building or home with a staircase, you can get winter exercise by simply walking up and down the stairs. You can vary the routine by taking two at a time or creating a mini-circuit routine by putting weights at the top and doing sets of arm exercises each time you walk up.
Be sure to wear shoes with good soles to prevent a slip. If you have difficulty walking or issues with balance, check with your doctor first.
Go to the mall
You will find many walkers at your local indoor mall in the mornings. They walk year-round in any weather. Lace up your walking shoes, head to the mall when it opens, and take a quick walk before the shoppers arrive.
Take a class
Sign up for a class like yoga or Pilates. Yoga helps improve balance, which reduces the risks of falling and helps with coordination.
Pilates is a low-impact exercise focusing on stretching to build muscle and reduce stiffness. It is a good option for people with osteoarthritis.
Try a winter sport
Not too far away from the Raleigh-Durham area, there are several snow resorts where you can spend the day on the slopes skiing or snowboarding. Bundle up in layers to stay warm and drink lots of water. If you are new to the sport, take a lesson with a professional.
Swimming is not just for summer. Many city recreation centers have indoor pools with open swims available for the public. Swimming is a good option for those with joint pain or rheumatoid arthritis because it does not stress your joints. It is also a full-body activity that uses all of your muscles.
Play an indoor sport
There are plenty of indoor activities in the Cary and Raleigh areas in the winter or year-round.
Join a weekly bowling league. Practice your swing at an interactive golf range. Get a full-body workout with activity at a trampoline park. Or try indoor rock climbing.
Practice winter exercise safely
To get the full benefits of exercise, it’s important to keep these exercise safety tips in mind:
- Listen to your body. Regardless of the time of year, don’t push yourself too hard when trying a new physical activity after a period of inactivity.
- For exercising in the cold, dress in layers so you can remove them if you become overheated.
- Keep an eye on the local weather forecast to plan for bad weather or extremely cold temperatures.
- Always keep a water bottle handy to stay hydrated throughout the activity.
- When trying a new sport, ask for instructions from a professional to ensure your form is correct.
- Exercising with a partner is fun, so ask a friend to tag along if you are venturing to a new place.
- If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Staying active during Raleigh’s winter months
The board-certified physical therapists at Cary Orthopaedics understand how important it is to stay active year-round. If you have concerns about a condition that may limit your physical activity this winter, please call us for a consultation.