Wintertime in many parts of the country is cold, icy and leaves us with no desire to trek outside for even a quick walk around the block. As colder weather approaches, most of us tend to head indoors, become less active, and wish we could hibernate until spring.
This is especially true in the north and northeastern states, where the total number of sunny days in the winter can average as few as eight (Syracuse, N.Y., Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wa.). Of course seniors in southern states like Florida, Nevada and Arizona don’t have an excuse, with between 29 and 42 sunny days during the winter!
The reality is, our bodies and brains need regular activity in order to stay healthy. Our bodies need it so we can maintain healthy bones and muscles, keep a steady weight, and ward off disease. In adults, research has found that being active can reduce your risk of colon cancer by 35 percent and breast cancer by 25 percent. Our brains need it to reduce stress, depression and anxiety, and even delay symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Our community offers fitness classes to help you stay in shape. Professional staff will even help tailor an exercise plan that is right for you. However, when the weather is too bad to exercise outside or you are just not up for a full gym workout, you can still keep active indoors. Here are some simple ways to keep yourself moving and burn calories on a daily basis. (Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine or stopping any therapeutic exercises your doctor may have prescribed for certain issues.)
When it comes to staying active without the gym, walking is one of the easiest, most convenient activities you can do. To burn calories, all you have to do is walk faster and devote more time to each walk. For the most benefit, use a pedometer or a smartphone app to keep track of how much you’re walking, and slowly work up to 10,000 steps a day.
If you can’t walk outside where you live, try indoor walking at a nearby mall, or using a step-exercise video at home. According to My Calorie Counter, Everyday Health’s food and exercise journal, brisk walking can burn more than 200 calories in 30 minutes, depending on your weight and the intensity of your workout.
A little change like standing instead of sitting can go a long way. If you sit a lot during the day, take a five- to ten-minute break at least once an hour to engage in some activity. Experts estimate that standing burns 50 percent more calories than sitting, so a 155-pound person could burn an extra 50 calories an hour just by getting on their feet.
Clean Your House
Cleaning your home or apartment regularly is another way to ensure that you stay active during the week. It allows you to incorporate a variety of muscle groups without even realizing it. It takes strength to drag around a vacuum or push and pull a mop.
An article in Everyday Health even recommends squeezing your glute muscles every time you take a step, or try tightening your abdominal muscles for a period of time throughout each hour. A 150-pound person can burn 85 calories per half hour through light cleaning, while vigorous cleaning burns 102 calories in 30 minutes.
Cook at Home
Most people don’t think of cooking as exercise, but preparing food at home certainly burns more calories — and usually causes you to consume fewer calories — than eating out or ordering in. Planning and shopping ahead and knowing what is going into your meal will help you control what goes in your mouth, and will help you resist the temptation of easy but not-so-healthy takeout.
Plus, thanks to activity such as standing, light lifting, and chopping, a 150-pound person can blast 78 calories with 30 minutes of cooking.
Stream a Video and Follow Along
The Internet is ripe with suggestions for exercise DVDs and online sites that allow you to stream yoga, dance and other types of exercise videos—some free and some for a monthly cost. Since everyone has different intensity preferences or is at a different level in their chosen exercise, it is often hard to know what really is the “best” DVD or online video for a given exercise.