Exercising During The Winter Season
The winter can be rough on many aspects of our lives. Being forced inside can lead to sedentary lifestyles that are both physically and emotionally damaging. While it’s easy to pass this off as something that’s unavoidable, that’s simply not true. Remaining active in the winter can improve your life overall in both the short-term and the long-term.
How a sedentary lifestyle affects you
Couches and beds are comfortable, right? Beyond that, they’re normally pretty warm, which is great in the winter. It would be hard to find something more inviting when the weather gets colder, and the temptation can become impossible to resist. For some people, they can spend 15 hours of their day on the couch in the winter—the average person is only awake for 16.
Because the couch is comfortable, this may not seem that bad for you. Truthfully, one day spent on the couch probably wouldn’t have too much of an impact on your life. The issue comes in when you consider that you’re living this lifestyle for the better part of 3 months. Consider this: standing burns roughly 114 calories an hour. On a summer day, you might be standing for a good portion of your day. If we estimate that to 6 hours, that’s 684 calories burned. In the winter, that gets cut back down to one hour, and 570 calories that you would have burned away. One day and 570 calories is okay, but it compounds quickly. In a week, you will have gained an extra pound, and between December 21 and March 21, that’s 13 pounds total.
Of course, weight gain isn’t the only problem. Sitting for more than 6 hours a day can greatly increase your risk for heart disease, and makes you 40% more likely to die within the next 15 years than your peers. Sitting also causes your insulin levels to drop at a rate of roughly 1% an hour and will drop your levels of good cholesterol by about 20% in 2 hours. Five days of sitting for more than 6 hours, and you’ll see an increase in plasma triglycerides (fatty molecules), LDL cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol), and insulin resistance. This raises your blood sugar level and decreases your ability to burn fat, leading to weight gain and a higher risk for diabetes.
Finally, sitting for too long with poor posture can lead to severe back problems. Postural stress is the most common cause for back pain, and sitting increases this stress by roughly 90% compared to standing.
Getting active in the winter
The lesson here seems pretty cut and dried: you should be aware of how much time you spend sitting every day, and try to lessen it. The only real way to not see the negative effects of sitting come to fruition is to… not sit. CNN reports that exercise doesn’t help with regulating insulin and blood sugar levels after long periods of sitting. However, exercise can help to lessen weight gain and the increased risk for heart problems.
There are plenty of ways to get your heart going when it gets cold. For example, consider skiing. While skiing is mostly a good time and a good way to get out in the winter, it is also anaerobic endurance activity just like swimming. Aerobic endurance exercises can increase your cardiovascular strength, improve your balance, and make you smile more. All the same can be said about snowboarding, making these two activities great for getting out, getting active, and enjoying the coldest season.
If walking in a winter wonderland isn’t your thing, you still have plenty of options available. Jump rope, lunges, and dancing are all things you never have to leave your living room to do that can help get your blood flowing in the winter. Even a little cleaning goes a long way. Mopping, vacuuming, and other cleaning activities can get so intense that they burn calories, increase your metabolism, and raise your heart rate.
At the end of the day, you should be spending less time thinking about how to get active and more time getting off the couch. While having a fitness plan is great, your plan only needs to have one step at this point: get off the couch. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing you can do just as well standing, and your body will appreciate you for it. Of course, if you find yourself sitting too much and experiencing noticeable consequences from it, you should consult a professional, as they will be able to work with you to craft the perfect fitness plan for you.