When winter blows in, don’t pull the blankets over your head and go back to sleep! Suit up to head out for an outdoor winter adventure! The American Heart Association recommends that everyone get 30 minutes of heart healthy exercise most days of the week—even during winter—to help prevent heart disease, the nation’s number one killer.
According to the American Heart Association, exercising in cooler weather has some distinct advantages over working out in the warmer weather. For one, you don’t have heat and humidity to deal with. In fact, winter’s chill can make you feel awake and invigorated. Not only that, you can work out harder in the cold weather—which means you burn even more calories. Heading outside in the winter is also a great way to take in the sunlight during those shorter winter days. Not only does light dramatically improve many people’s moods, it also helps you get the vitamin D your body needs.
The AHA encourages walking as a primary heart healthy activity since people are more likely to stick with walking than any other exercise. Why walking? It’s efficient. Just 30 minutes of walking a day can improve your circulation, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and help you lose weight.
It’s free, simple and convenient. The only thing you need to start is a pair of supportive walking shoes. There’s no equipment required, nothing complicated to learn, and you can do it right where you are. Just step outside. Run errands, walk the dog, take a lunchtime walk, catch up with friends or spend time with your significant other during an evening walk, or bundle up your kids and walk as a family. There are dozens of ways to fit in bursts of walking this season. And it’s customizable. By changing up the time, distance, pace and route, you can create the right walking program for you.
There are dozens of ways to get physical activity inside, too—no gym required. Weights (such as a set of 5-pound and 10-pound dumbbells) are a great addition, but not absolutely necessary.
Adding in an exercise circuit (a cycle of 5–6 moves, run a few times through) is a great way to stave off boredom and get a lot done in a short amount of time. You can create your own mini-circuits at home if you don’t belong to a gym. Ideally, your circuit will include a cardio burst of 1–2 minutes, followed by 3–5 exercises that work various parts of your body.
- Jump rope, jog in place or run your steps (start with 1 minute and progress to 2).
- 10 pushups (You can modify with knees down if you are having trouble holding a straight body pushup position; remember to keep your palms flat on the floor.)
- 20 crunches (with feet flat and knees up, legs bent in the air at 90 degrees or straight up, or your favorite variation)
- 20 hip lifts (flat on your back, arms down on the ground at your sides with fingertips pointing toward feet, feet flat with knees bent at 90 degrees; press feet and shoulders into floor as you lift your hips as high as you can; lift and lower)
- 30-second plank hold (holding a pushup position; body as a straight line, or with knees down)
- 10 triceps dips on a chair/couch (Sit on chair with feet flat and knees bent at 90 degrees; hands at sides, palms pressed into the chair with fingertips facing forward; take one large step with right foot, and join left foot beside it. Bend your arms to 90 degrees as you lower and lift; keeps abs tight.) The beauty of exercise circuits is that you can be creative. Mix and match your favorite moves.
Don’t want to walk alone? You can sign up for an American Heart Association Heart Walk at HeartWalk.org or start a walking club at www.mywalkingclub.org to start your own official walking club. Make or try a new walking route at StartWalkingNow.org. Above all, appreciate the season. Try a winter activity, such as snow shoeing, cross-country skiing or ice skating with family and friends. Take 30 minutes for your heart this winter!