What’s Your Plan for Staying Active This Winter?

Moving our bodies is as important for heart health as nourishing them, but in winter, it’s not quite as easy is it? Most of us are less active than in the warmer months, with understandable concerns about slipping, falling and maybe freezing our eyelashes! This year people living with heart disease have one less option, as most will wisely stay away from gyms and rec centres.

So when our first snowfall of the season came earlier this week, I asked on social media about people’s plans for staying active this winter. The answers were so good! Lots of practical tips and resources, so I decided to compile and share them here.

I also asked my friend Tyler Threlfall, a Clinical Exercise Physiologist at Calgary’s Total Cardiology Rehabilitation. He offered this advice:

“It is important to maintain your fitness throughout the winter months so that when the weather is nice you are able to do the activities you love. Activity in the winter helps to break up sedentary time and is a great way to explore our surroundings from a different point of view.

No matter what you choose to do make sure that you warm up For at least 5 minutes first by starting at a fairly light pace. This allows your body to get used to the temperature and makes the activity much safer and enjoyable. Your heart and your joints will thank you!!!

I believe Max Bell arena offers free walking in the afternoons and during COVID. I had lots of our patients make walking courses in their homes using their stairs.”

Besides being good for heart health, and health in general, moving your body can energize you, and maybe even be fun! The trick is to find something you enjoy, that makes you feel good.

Here are a few highlights from the social media responses. I’m not endorsing these products or blogs by the way. Just sharing options to get your brainstorm going.

Mall walking

Steve and I did a little asking around in Calgary, and it seems that while the major malls aren’t actively promoting mall walking before opening hours, they’re still allowing it. And of course, you can come and walk while they’re open, but you’ll have a bit more company. Mask up, meet a friend, and do a little window shopping while you’re at it.

Ways to move at home

It’s no secret the home exercise equipment market has had a boom this year. You don’t need a lot of equipment to get moving at home, but if you want to mix things up, here are a few ideas:

Getting outside

It may require some bundling up and extra gear, from footwear to snowshoes, but being outside can boost your mood and this year, we’ll need it! Plus outside, we can connect with friends and family outside of our bubble.

Don’t put the bike away!

Believe it or not, a couple of people mentioned cycling:

(MUP = multi-use pathway, and Calgary has about 1000km of it, so let’s take advantage!)

My winter cycling exploration started a few years ago when another parent in our school, Doug Dunlop, mentioned that he was going to be on a panel discussion about it. He not only bikes year round, but also bikes to backcountry camping through the winter!

Listening to the otherwise regular people who bike year-round convinced my husband and I to try it, so we got studded tires. Doug set us up with “pogies,” extra-warm mitts that wrap around the bike handles, which he makes and sells.

I asked Doug for his advice:

All the people who I’ve met who said, “I could never do that,” have never tried. The people who have tried know how much fun it is.

If you have a cutoff temperature or weather when you stop riding of, say -15ºC, then you might find yourself accidentally riding through the winter.

I have become strongly in favour of electric assist for people wanting to gain fitness, They can overcome a lot of barriers, and because they raise the level of enjoyment, they get used for longer, and people gain more than they might on an analog bike.

Studded tires are of course, great for winter, and riding on maintained pathways helps to avoid difficult obstacles.”

If the weather isn’t too bad, I quite enjoy it! The balancing is a bit tricky, as is the bike maintenance, but it’s lovely and peaceful on a quiet morning right after a snow, and if you can dress for cross country skiing, you can dress for this!

My plan

I need variety, so I do a little bit of everything. In the winter that means walking the dog or shoveling if there’s fresh snow, in addition to the biking.

If the weather is ugly, I do stairs inside the house, which I started last year while training for a Calgary Tower climbing event that had to be cancelled. 🙁 It’s not that exciting, but I like it because it gives me a chance to listen to podcasts or audio books.

Plus there are yoga videos (I like this one and this one), and for strength training, this spring, we invested in a few weights, once we realized we wouldn’t be going back to the gym anytime soon.

Finally, there’s cross country skiing and snowshoeing, which we don’t do nearly enough of. I think that’s about to change. Time to embrace outside.

We’ve got this!

A big thank you to everyone who chimed in on this! Hopefully it’s given you a few ideas that sound fun. You have to find something that works for you, right?

And the benefits: better sleep, mental health, vitality, brain health, sexual health, and heart health! Yes please. 😀

I’ll leave the last word to sports nutritionist Anne Guzman. I loved this:

How about you? What’s your plan for staying active this winter? Share your ideas, resources, and plan in our Facebook community.



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