From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Some of the most common excuses you may say to yourself over the next few months may range from, "It's too cold to work out!" to “It’s the holiday season, I’m too busy for activity!" Yes, it's tough to get motivated when the wind is howling or the snow is blowing, but don't give up all thoughts of staying active – indoors or out. All you have to do is spend just a little time planning to help you get through the winter months ahead. Here are some ideas:

Find a fun activity.As the seasons change, explore new outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. (

Insulate your body. The best approach to dressing for outdoor activity is with layers. Layering provides the most effective way to stay warm and dry. Plus it allows you to remove the top layer if you get too hot. The layer closest to your skin should allow moisture to be wicked away. Consider garments made from materials such as polypropylene. Avoid cotton as a first layer because once it gets wet, it tends to stay wet. The top layer should be both wind- and water-resistant.

Keep your clothes on. While you may be tempted to immediately remove layers when you go back inside, give your body time to adjust. If you are not wet, wait 10 to 15 minutes before changing into other clothes. If you lose heat from your body too quickly, you may experience post-exercise hypothermia, which is a result of the body reducing its production of heat while rapidly losing its existing heat stores.

Drink up. It's just as important to stay hydrated when active in winter as it is in summer, even though you might not feel as thirsty. Drink water before, during and after an outdoor workout. Smart tip: carry a thermos with herbal tea.

Use daylight hours. If possible, it's best to be active outdoors while it is still light out. But shorter days may make that difficult to do. If you choose to work out while it’s dark, try to wear reflective materials on your clothing to ensure your safety.

Walk at an indoor location, like a mall. If you need extra motivation to get yourself going, join a walking group. This may help you stay committed. Find a walking club near you. Or start your own with family and friends.

Sign up for activities at your local community centre. This will allow you to choose from a wide variety of classes – from aerobics and badminton to basketball and yoga. Fees are reasonable – or if you’re undergoing economic hardships, ask for a fee reduction.

Create a home gym. You can easily set up a great workout area in your living room or basement and buy some inexpensive equipment such as stretch bands and a stability ball.

Climb stairs. Either at home or in your office or factory building, spend as little as 5 minutes at a time climbing up and down the stairs for a very intense and efficient workout. Read about Canada’s Public Health Agency’s Stairway to Health, a program to encourage workplaces to become physically active.

Get wet. Find a local indoor pool. Try swimming, water aerobics, or even just walking or running laps in the water.

Visit a library. Sign out free exercise DVDs, including dance, step, aerobics and Pilates programs. When returning a DVD, choose another kind of exercise to keep you motivated.

Before starting any activity program, be sure to talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional.

This physical activity column was written by a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor and reviewed by a specialist in kinesiology.

Posted: November 2009

Heart and Stroke Foundation


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