When the sun shines less in fall and winter, that can depress our mood. Regular physical activity lifts our spirits by releasing feel-good endorphins. Aim for 30 minutes of activity three to fve days a week. You can engage in three 10-minute bouts of activity a day, if 30 minutes all at once is daunting. Try these ideas for indoor physical activity during the cold and icy months:
- Turn on the radio and dance.
- March in place while watching your favorite TV show.
- Set an alarm to walk around your house or office every hour during the day.
- Climb stairs.
- Use workout videos.
- Explore streaming channels to find those that are free.
- Borrow an exercise video from your local library.
- Visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu, for free physical activity videos.
Looking for a fun activity to try this winter? These top outdoor activities are good for burning calories:
Glide along the trail, taking in the fresh winter air and looking for wildlife. Search for parks with groomed trails. With moderate effort, you’ll burn 700 calories an hour, or 500 with light effort.
In areas where it’s permitted and ice conditions allow, ice skating is a great way to get active outdoors in the winter. In one hour of skating, you’ll burn 550 calories.
Sledding and tobogganing
You might ask how many calories you can burn while flying down a hill. Well, don’t forget the repeated walks up that hill, and you’ll rack up 550 calories burned in an hour.
Yes, you can still fish a stream in waders in the winter—look to the trout streams of northeast Iowa, which rarely freeze. In an hour of angling, you’ll burn 460 calories. Not wanting to get in the water? You can still burn 300 calories in an hour by fishing and walking along the bank.
All calories burned are calculated for a 170-pound person per hour. Those weighing less will burn fewer calories, while those weighing more will burn a greater amount of calories.
Search state and county parks by available activities with the Iowa DNR interactive Healthy and Happy Outdoors map.
Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Boost your activity level, burn some extra calories and lower stress by gardening. Gardening activities are great ways to boost physical activity. Experts recommend a minimum of 2 1/2 hours of physical activity per week.
Reference: William D McArdle, Frank Katch, Victor L. Katch, Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins) (2001); taken from eXtension.org
Don’t have a garden yourself? Offer to help a neighbor or volunteer in a community garden. Go dig in the dirt and enjoy the healthful benefits of gardening!
To learn more about gardening, contact your local county ISU Extension and Outreach office or visit the online ISU Extension store at https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ to check out these and other gardening publications:
PM 870B—Container Vegetable Gardening
PM 819—Planting a Home Vegetable Garden
PM 534—Planting and Harvesting Times for Garden Vegetables
Tai chi is a martial art developed in ancient China that is now practiced for health improvement. Tai chi combines slow, graceful movements flowing into the next with focused mental concentration.
Tai chi requires very little in terms of equipment or props. This slow and gentle movement of body weight and deep breathing requires nothing more than comfortable clothes and flat, flexible shoes. It is suitable for all ages and can be done indoors or outdoors, alone or with a group. The whole family can learn and practice tai chi together.
People who practice tai chi several times weekly may experience several health benefits such as improved balance (which helps to reduce risk of falling), flexibility, strengthened muscles, stress relief, lower blood pressure, better sleep quality, and improved sense of well-being, to name a few.
Before beginning tai chi, as with any exercise program, consult your physician if you have a chronic health condition.
Sources: www.extension.org/pages/32340/tai-chi:-movment-for-health-benefits/print/ and http://nccam.nih.gov/health/taichi/introduction.htm
Exercising can be hard, but tracking your progress doesn’t have to be. A fitness tracker counts your steps and provides motivation to exercise more throughout your day without drastic lifestyle changes or fad diets. By simplifying the process of monitoring with a fitness device, you will increase the likelihood of reaching a healthier weight and improving your overall health.
Fitness trackers are lightweight and wearable, and they can track steps, distance, heart rate, and calories used. Some even monitor sleep. The best activity trackers monitor your activity and display information about your daily routine on your smartphone or on the screen of the device itself.
Look for ones that will calculate your total minutes of activity, steps taken, heart rate, and goals for you. Some may even remind you to get up and move when you have been sitting for too long. Choose one that works with your lifestyle and habits. PC magazine has a good review of features and costs for some of the more popular wearable activity trackers.
Don’t ignore physical activity during the holidays. Activity helps reduce feelings of stress and can give you extra energy. Even in cold snowy weather, you can bundle up and enjoy a winter walk or other calorie-burning activities such as sledding, ice skating, cross-country skiing, and snow shoeing.
If cold, snowy weather doesn’t motivate you to enjoy outdoor activities, winter is still a great time to try indoor physical activities:
- Go to the gym or recreation center
- Pop in an exercise video, or an active video game (e.g., Wii®)
- Set up an activity tournament with competitions: Who can do the most jumping jacks in one minute? Who can jump on one leg the longest without falling over? Who can do the most push-ups? Play follow-the-leader throughout the house to your favorite music. Brainstorm other ideas for an indoor activity tournament.