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Carrying your summer fitness into fall and winter

Our guest expert in September 2011 was Stephanie Naulls, acting professional advisor for the kinesiology/athletic therapy group at Women’s College Hospital.  Stephanie is a kinesiologist working in the cardiac rehabilitation program and is the exercise leader for the wellspring cancer exercise program. 

Stephanie Naulls answered questions on how to keep summer fitness activities on track into fall and winter.  Being healthy and active in the spring and summer months can be simple and fun because of the warm weather and long days.  But the weather can discourage some people from carrying these activities into the colder months.  There are plenty of fun ways to stay fit, healthy and active all year round.

Here are Stephanie Naulls’ answers to your questions on carrying your summer fitness activities into fall and winter.

 Q: In the fall and winter, especially in the winter, I tend to get depressed. I am unmotivated to go to the gym, especially in bad weather. How can I overcome this?

 A: This is a common complaint from many people and staying motivated can be very difficult. It helps if you have a friend, family member or co-worker that you can make plans with to do something active. That way you are both making a commitment and you would be less likely to back out. Alternatively, you can also sign up for a class, where your attendance is expected and you’d likely be more motivated.

 

Q: I am a runner, but I hate the treadmill. I tend to become extremely sedentary in the winter which is quite bad as I tend to gain weight in my stomach and thighs. There is also a history of diabetes in my family. Do you have any suggestions for a treadmill-hater?

 A: I am not sure if it’s the colder weather or fear of falling that is preventing you from running outside during the winter months. However, there are always those better days with either little snow on the ground or temperatures that are above -10 C where you can go out for a run. Of course, there are some things that you need to take into account. Dressing appropriately is key. Wearing a scarf or neck warmer that comes up over your mouth and nose, gloves and a hat are must-haves for winter running. On those days when it is just unpleasant outside, you can substitute your run with a DVD workout or use alternative equipment such as an elliptical or stationary bike.


Q: How do I keep cycling in the winter (i.e. biking to work)? Is there certain equipment to invest in or things I should keep in mind?

 A: I am not sure where you are living, which impacts how I answer this question. I recommend that you visit your local cycling shop and speak to one of their staff about appropriate gear for cycling in the winter. I recommend that you layer your clothing and wear reflective markers because of shorter daylight hours.

 Cycling in the winter can be tricky. You have to use your common sense to determine which days are appropriate to cycle and which days are not. Checking the weather forecast and being cautious of black ice is very important. In Toronto, cycling season typically goes until November and then resumes in March. In the off months it can be a time to cycle on a stationary bike or try new activities. There are many ways to enjoy winter by getting out and going skating, cross country skiing, etc. You can even perform other types of exercises such as strength training for your upper body since this area is not targeted with cycling. For the commute to work, you may have to settle for transit or carpooling. But don’t fret, it’s only for a few months.


Q: I organize a walking group for women and their children (ages 0-4 years). Many of the women are new to Canada and our colder climate. Can you provide some tips for easing into walking in the fall and winter months?


A: As long as the walking group continues on a regular basis the body will naturally acclimatize itself to the cooler temperatures. On days when it is very cold and there is a wind chill in effect, you may want to walk during the warmest part of the day when the sun is out.

 Layering is key! It’s important to dress appropriately from head to toe. A hat, scarf that covers your mouth and nose, gloves and layered clothing underneath a winter jacket are all necessary. You should also wear proper footwear that keeps your feet warm and also has a good sole for walking in snow and ice. Some people may be fearful of slipping on ice, but working on improving balance, core strength and overall physical strength are ways to prevent slipping and hurting yourself.

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