Bring your winter workout indoors

Don't let your motivation fall with the temperature! Do like the birds and take your outdoor workout choices to a warmer climate. Laps at the pool? Head for an indoor pool. Your usual walk in the neighbourhood? Shift it to the mall. Gyms can get a bit more crowded in the winter months because of the weather, so if you want to avoid the sweaty masses, try out a yoga studio or see if there's a community centre or school that opens its indoor facilities to the public. You can also sign up for indoor activities and team sports through your local community centre.

This winter, you may also want to reexamine your attitude toward video games. They usually get a bad rap for encouraging sloth and inactivity. But fitness-conscious gaming consoles like the Wii Fit, for example, pull lazy gamers off of the couch and challenge them to a variety of active movement games. It's all fun and games, but these types of video games engage users in the fitness fundamentals – balance, strength training, flexibility, aerobics, and personal goal setting.

One possible reason that video games have become popular as an at-home fitness option is because they don't take up as much space as traditional fitness equipment. A treadmill or elliptical trainer doesn't fit in everyone's home! But what about an exercise mat? Anyone could unroll a yoga mat onto the rug and enjoy the benefits of a simple daily stretch. Without even leaving your warm, cozy house, you can improve your posture, relieve stress and enhance your circulation ("Yay!" say your cold toes) – and gain strength and endurance. "How?" ask your cold toes. Recent research has revealed that stretching improves more than just your flexibility. By expanding and lengthening your muscles, stretching can help to improve performance in specific exercises, for example increasing the knee muscles' endurance, allowing you to exert more strength through their use.

Want to head out into the cold?

Brave the blustery, blizzardy, great outdoors – just make sure you dress the part! There's nothing between you and snow-bound fun except some waterproof snow clothes and a pair of insulated boots! Layer your clothes, including doubling up on your socks. Cozy up in workout wear that's made from waterproof fabrics, and don't forget to wear a warm cap, gloves, and something to cover your neck.

If you'd like to get involved in winter-specific sports, you may need special clothes or equipment, like in hockey, snowshoeing, ice skating, skiing, or snowboarding. Or you can just play and frolic like you did as a kid. Tromp around outside and build a snowman or a snow fort. Create snow angels or have a goodhearted snowball fight. If you're thinking of going sledding, make sure to brush up on your sledding safety skills. And as the December holidays roll around, go for a stroll around neighborhoods to see the homes and yards decorated with festive lights and displays.

No matter what your wintertime activity level, be extra cautious. Stretch first and warm up – your muscles and the rest of your body. And pace yourself. Your body may respond differently to exertion in cold weather. If you have not done any physical activity in a while, it's a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any winter workout.


During the holidays, the mall is like an obstacle course. You weave in and out to dodge oncoming shoppers. You shift your armloads of bags from side to side, trying your best not to whack the man resting on the bench as you pass. Shopping amidst the holiday crowds can be a test of your will and your patience, but it can also sharpen your reflexes and give you a bit of a workout. Here are some more ways to exercise more than just your charge card while you're out shopping:

  • Park farther away. You may have no choice when the malls get crowded. Rather than fuming in frustration, stalking exiting shoppers for their spot, or wasting gas wandering the lot, go ahead and park out in the hinterlands. The walk will improve your circulation, increase your respiration, and give you the energy you need to face the crowds.
  • Take a warm-up lap. Circling the mall once will give you a quick lay of the land and a little more time to stretch your legs and get warmed up.
  • Strap on your pedometer. These little gadgets can be really motivating. Just seeing the steps you take accumulate could inspire you to keep right on walking past the food court's temptations.
  • Play the weighting game. Long lines may seem like idle time, but not if you sport some stealth fitness gear: a bulky winter coat could conceal wrist weights, and ankle weights will provide an extra layer of warmth for heading out into the cold. Oh, and the weights will also provide some resistance exercise as you're going about your merry business at the mall.
  • Climb the stairs. It's one of those "no duh" ideas, but check yourself next time you approach that escalator-or-stairs choice. If you're feeling sluggish, the stairs might be just what you need. Some malls are installing signs to encourage folks to take the stairs, and these little visual cues do seem to help.
  • Make some mall moves. You may feel embarrassed to bust out a full-on yoga pose or do squats at the food court, but you can mix in some fitness moves on the sly. Who will really notice if you do some toe lifts to tone your calves? No one will see you tightening and releasing your abs under that sweater. Twenty reps of tighten-release will help pass the time in a long line-up.

Rough sledding?

Every year, emergency departments treat children injured in sliding accidents. When minor bruises and bumps give way to broken bones and serious injuries of the head and spinal cord, it's a sign that parents and children should be reminded of safety while playing outside.

There are several precautions you can take that can help protect your child against injuries. The safest tobogganing hills have no trees, fences, rocks, wires, or other objects that may pose a risk of injury. A young child should always be under the watchful eye of a parent or adult. A Canadian Standards Association (CSA)-approved hockey helmet, with a warm hat under it, is recommended for children under 12 years of age. It is dangerous to wear long scarves while sliding, as they can increase the risk of choking. Always make sure that your child's toboggan or sled is in good condition. Remember, certain positions on a sled are better than others at minimizing the risk of injury:

  • Kneeling provides the most protection.
  • Lying on the stomach increases the risk of head injury.
  • Lying flat on the back increases the risk for spine injury.

Teach your child:

  • to be aware of his or her surroundings
  • to watch out for other sliders
  • to avoid sliding down the hill in the direction of a road, parking lot, river, or pond
  • to walk to the side and away from the sliding path when walking up the hill
  • to go indoors when their clothing is wet and they feel cold to avoid hypothermia and frostbite

Knowing how to help prevent injuries can make for a fun and enjoyable winter for your child.