It is so easy to sink into old routines during the winter months and break from the healthy choices we established during the warmer, longer days. When the temperature drops, these simple tips below can be the difference between staying active and strong, versus falling into a sedentary lifestyle.
The Best Heart-Healthy Exercises
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, these three kinds of exercises boost heart health:
- Aerobic Exercise
- Resistance Training
- Stretching, Flexibility and Balance
Staying physically active is one of the best ways we can keep our heart healthy and strong, while feeling better mentally and physically.
“Aerobic exercise and resistance training are the most important for heart health,” says Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, Ed.D. “Although flexibility doesn’t contribute directly to heart health, it’s nevertheless important because it provides a good foundation for performing aerobic and strength exercises more effectively.”
Examples of these three exercises:
- Aerobic Exercise: brisk walking, jogging, biking, swimming, playing tennis, jumping rope and dancing
- Resistance Training: free weights, weight machines, resistance bands and body weight exercises (push-ups, squats, lunges)
- Stretching, Flexibility and Balance: tai-chi, yoga and dynamic stretching
Winter Workout Tips
These tips are outlined in easy to remember phrases for when you are in a slump and need extra motivation. Just remember to start safe, stay warm, set a goal, and seek out friends!
Consult with your doctor or qualified clinician about what types of exercises are right for you before beginning an exercise program. It is also important to know what intensity and duration is recommended, especially if you have concerns about limitations.
If you have cardiovascular disease and aren’t sure where to begin, this article may help you start a new routine.
Always begin each workout with stretching and warming up the muscles. Good flexibility is key to maintaining a solid aerobic or resistance training program.
2. Stay Warm
The cooler months are a great time to join a new gym or recreation center. You may be able to choose a class each week that you like such as yoga or a spin class. Some gyms even have an indoor pool or racquetball court for getting those aerobic exercises in while staying warm.
If joining a gym is not an option, create a comfortable space in your home where you can move around. Follow exercise videos online or create your own workout routine that fits your needs. Staying in and doing your exercises will keep you warm and dry, but does require a certain level of commitment and motivation.
If you do want to go for a brisk outdoor walk each week, make sure you bundle up with good quality winter activewear.
3. Set a Goal
A good way to keep to a workout routine, especially in the winter, is to set a SMART goal. A SMART goal is an acronym which means: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound.
An example of a good SMART goal is: I will go to my 45-minute yoga class at the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays at Noon.
Another example of a SMART goal to use during the winter months: I will meet up with my sister to walk every Friday at 10:00 am for at least 30 minutes at the park by my house.
Write down your goal on a sticky note and put it in a place you look at often to remind yourself of what you want to achieve. It’s also important to evaluate your goal every few months to see if it needs to be changed, or if it’s time for a new one.
4. Seek Out Friends
By exercising with a partner, you are establishing accountability and support. When you are alone it can be hard to find the motivation to stay active, especially during the winter months.
Find a friend who likes to walk or jog, and choose a couple days of the week that work for you both. Make sure to schedule the walks on your calander or in your phone so you don’t have an excuse to cancel or reschedule.
Joining a class at the gym is the perfect way to stay on track because there is a level of social pressure to show up each week. Try a variety of classes during the week so you have a few friends to lean on for support.
When establishing an exercise routine during the winter, it is best to start with baby steps and stay warm. Hold yourself accountable by making a SMART goal, write it down and then find other people to help you stay consistent. Always remember to stretch first, bundle up if going outside and listen to your body when you need rest.
- 3 Kinds of Exercise That Boost Heart Health | Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Beginners Guide for CVD-Safe Exercises – Cecelia Health