Continue exercise program in cold months
Winter weather provides many opportunites for exercising, but it’s important to remember to continue to take care of your body during the cold weather months.
Exercising outdoors? The temperature of muscles, tendons and ligaments are significantly reduced in the cold, making them less moveable. This is one of the reasons that exercising in cold weather feels so much more tiring and difficult and all the more reason to take necessary steps to stay safe. The colder it is outside, the more important it is for your body to get a decent warm up, some stretching and a good cool down as you end your workout. This helps to elevate muscle temperature, allows for greater flexibility in the muscles and joints and lessens injury risk.
An adequate warm-up/ cool-down in cold temperatures involves 10 minutes or so of a low-intensity activity. In severe conditions, it can be difficult to adequately elevate muscle temperature. If this is the case, a warm up should be longer and with slightly greater intensity.
When exercising in the cold, it also is extremely important to dress appropriately, drink water before, during and after the activity and avoid alcohol. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, encouraging heat loss and increases fluid loss through its diuretic effects.
Be heart smart in cold weather. Heart attacks particularly are common in sedentary men and women who engage in sudden exercise such as shoveling snow. In the cold, the arteries in the heart constrict and blood pressure rises and it is harder to breathe and move efficiently. Heart attack risk increases in the elderly, those who have preexisting medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease and in those who are inactive and overweight. One study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported 53 percent more heart attacks happen during the winter months as compared to the summertime. Know your limitations, plan accordingly and listen to your body.
Fact or myth? A commonly held belief is that most people gain five to 10 pounds during the holidays. The good news is that recent studies show that weight gain actually amounts typically to only about one pound during the winter holiday season. The bad news however is that for most, this extra weight is not lost during the remainder of the year. The slow rise in weight through the years may be a major contributor to obesity later in life. Researchers asked study participants about factors that they felt might influence weight change, including stress, hunger, activity level or number of holiday parties attended. It was found that only two factors influenced weight gain; levels of hunger and amount of activity. No surprise that those who reported being much more active or much less hungry were the least likely to gain weight during holidays and some even lost weight.
Manage stress. The amount of stress we experience from day to day has a great deal of influence on how well our bodies function. Researchers have been studying the effects of long-term stress and increases in the incidence of hypertension as we age. Although stress itself is not the sole cause of cardiovascular diseases, it can play a significant role in its progression and in the severity of symptoms.
One study sought to determine how long-term work in a stressful setting might affect blood pressure. The study examined 213 men between the ages of 30 and 60. In interviews about the participants’ work histories, the researchers asked about factors such as freedom to control their own work and freedom to make decisions, along with assessments of job demands and pressures. Men who reported spending more than 25 years in a highstress, low-control job had higher systolic blood pressure values both at work (average 4.8 mmHg higher) and at home (average 7.9 mmHg higher) when compared with men who held less stressful jobs.
If you find yourself in a constant state of motion and interaction with others, sooner or later this will create stress. It is important to take time to relax and unwind periodically throughout the day, even if it is only for a few minutes. Deep breathing techniques and simple stretches can help take the edge off an otherwise hectic day. Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. She owns Custom Fitness Personal Training Services. Write to her in care of the Dayton Daily News, call her at (937) 878-9018 or send e-mail to email@example.com. Her website is at www.ohtrainer.com.