Keys to Avoiding an Exercise Hibernation This Winter

As the days shorten and the weather cools, heralding the approach of another winter, our physical therapy team offers a word of warning:

While hibernation may seem appealing this time of year, especially as we trudge through the current health crisis, it’s paramount we all continue to stay active with regular aerobic and strength training.

Regular exercise is good for us on countless levels. We all know this.

However, as people tend to feel more sluggish and unmotivated this time of year, we remind everyone to strive to remain “summer active” as we wind down 2020.

Not only will this help keep us both physically elevated and mentally sharp during colder, darker months. It can also help us stay out of the doctor’s office.

That’s right.

Exercise itself, combined with some of the benefits experienced by those who exercise regularly (i.e., lower weight, greater energy, better, sleep, a more positive attitude), give our bodies a good immunity boost.

And, as we all know, these benefits come along with many others including lower blood pressure; the prevention or management of several health issues like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, etc.

Considering all this, the fact that exercise is critical no matter the time of year cannot be overstated.

How Much Exercise Do We Need?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, exercise guidelines suggest we all need two types of activity: aerobic and strength (resistance) training.

Aerobic Activity

The average person should get a weekly total of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking, swimming, etc.) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (e.g., running, cycling, aerobics, etc.).

Strength Training

Strength training for all major muscle groups should be done twice each week. This involves at least a single set of exercise per muscle group, at a weight that tires your muscles after 12 to 15 reps.

Depending on the shape you’re in or your medical history, these guidelines can be adjusted slightly one way or the other to accommodate your limitations and your exercise goals. It’s important to consult your physician and your physical therapist before getting started on any new program.

Establish a Routine

Once your specific exercise requirements are set, the next challenge is establishing a consistent routine. For this, we offer the following advice:

Set a Goal

Write it down, and be as specific as possible. “I want to lose weight” won’t work. A better goal would be, “I want to lose 15 pounds over the next 90 days.”

Be Consistent

Create a weekly routine for yourself that’s repeated day after day, week after week. Follow these routines until they become habit, like showering in the morning, brushing your teeth, or making dinner.

Work Out with a Friend

Whether walking, running, going to the gym, or taking an exercise class, do it with a friend (or friends). This is a great way to be accountable and to support one another with motivation.

Put It on the Calendar

Take your exercise times as seriously as work meetings and social gatherings. Block these times out on your calendar … but not “as time permits.” Be selfish with these times.

Be Competitive

According to a 2016 study published in the journal Preventative Medicine Reports, competition was an overwhelmingly greater motivator than social support. This doesn’t mean you need to run out and sign up for a race. Simply find ways (either interpersonal or online) to make your workouts competitive.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

Of course, if motivation and planning isn’t a problem but pain or movement limitations are, it may be time to consult with a physical therapist.

The first step is to simply schedule a pain, movement or injury assessment with one of our PTs. Once your issues and their causes are determined, we can provide you with a personalized plan for treating and correcting all that’s holding you back!

Barbara Franzino, MAPT

In my never ending endeavor to understand the wisdom of the human body, movement and health I have developed a method of treatment that assists the body’s natural healing process. I have studied for over 20 years under many great teachers and my treatment method combines manual therapy, myofascial release and mindful movement to rid the body of pain and restore motion.

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