There is crispness in the air. The leaves have fallen, the grass is dormant and the windshields are covered by a thick sheet of ice before the sun rises above the horizon and paints the sky with brilliant hues of orange, pink, purple, red and yellow.
Getting out of bed can be hard when it’s cold outside. There is such a comforting feeling about cuddling up with blankets instead of crawling out into the cold with aching pain in the joints. However, it isn’t the most ideal thing to do when it comes to having a productive day and feeling like your best self from a mobility standpoint.
Hibernating in the winter becomes common as we age. The cold is hard on our bodies, or so it seems. But sometimes it isn’t the weather that is hard on us, it is the lack of physical activity that takes a toll on the body as well as the mind.
The shorter, darker, cold days tend to naturally increase fatigue, arthritic pain flairs, and the snow and ice can make leaving the house an intimidating and scary task. When you’re tired, your reflexes don’t respond as quickly as you’d like, add achy joints and some ice on the ground and falling becomes a fear.
Exercise and movement are important for people of all ages, but it is especially important for aging adults. Gaining and maintaining muscle mass, bone density, core strength and flexibility are so important.
Engaging in regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and arthritic pain can decrease because of lubricating the joints as you move. It is also well known that exercise can significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression.
Several studies have also confirmed regular exercise can help prevent cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory loss. To go beyond that, our social circle has the potential to increase through group exercise classes or walking groups that boosts our reason to leave the comfort of our homes.
Tips for how to stay active in the winter:
1. Join a group exercise class.
There are a lot of excellent exercise classes in our community that have a low cost or are free and you can get a great workout. Try a variety of classes and stick with those you enjoy.
2. Layer up and get outside.
Pick a route that you know you are capable of doing and go for a walk. Invite your friends to join you. Maybe you extend your time together by beginning and ending your time with a cup of coffee or tea. Just make sure that you’re not going outside when it is icy and always be cautious and aware of your footing.
3. Get active at home.
Clean and declutter the house, do come chair exercises, pick a few easy exercises to do and get up and move during commercial breaks.
4. Do something fun.
Find an active volunteer opportunity that you enjoy, go shopping or just browse the local stores.
Getting out of the house, staying active and engaging with other people will inevitably have a positive effect on your overall well-being. Be sure to take appropriate precautions and remember, you may just find that winter isn’t all that bad after all.
Desiree Pearce is a health and well-being instructor at the YMCA in Sheridan.