Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to Exercise in Winter

Winter cold or irregular weather or allergy-provoking winds can really discourage us from exercise. Some of us have a block against the word exercise or think of some high-level of exercise perfectionism. What counts is that you get started doing SOMETHING and are physically active--and once you get moving, you want to move more!

IDEAS on how to be more physical and even exercise!
* DANCE BREAK On the TV show 30 Rock, Tina Fey leads her writing team to break down for a "dance break" with her favorite rap music. If you work from home, this is the perfect computer break! Oxygenating your brain will help you think more clearly and productivity rises! OR take this to the next level--make it your cardio workout by dancing to your favorite music mix or videos. As a teen, I used to dance with MTV music videos with my friend--being goofy or having fun is one way to get over that perfectionism.
* WALK AT THE MALL It was raining badly one time I was visiting my friend in Ithaca and I had just got off a 5-hour bus ride. There was no way I could sit more at her house and I needed to walk so I could avoid back and hip pain. My motivator? Pain-prevention and body ache. I asked her to take me to the mall. We did walking, making laps around the aisles of Target while we caught up talking. Yes, you can leave your credit cards at home and safely do brisk walks at the mall if you can't be outside. Make a rule, that if you're going to be on a long phone call with a loved one who doesn't mind your cardio-breathing, you can make that a walk and talk appointment. Some people even have long-distance walking buddies--a great way to catch up with loved ones and encourage each other to get in those brisk walks. Also, join my hiking group for inspiration--we take the opportunity to be local tourists and check out new parks.
* HOME STRENGTH I had a student in New York City with the smallest apt AND we were in the middle of winter with his plan to quit cigarettes (exercise is a great way to help smokers find an alternative to the breathing they miss from smoking). Nothing was going to stop us with his strength and cardio routine. We did so many exercises with JUST his body weight, the floor and a chair. We did martial-arts-inspired lunges (in every direction--side lunges are really great!) and deep squats and if you do enough of them without stopping, these strength training exercises become a cardio workout! Incline push-ups with a chair, legs on a chair with push-up arms on the ground, dips, side planks. Lots of pilates mat exercises can be mixed up with a chair or ball for variety. And on the days we were brave to bundle up and go outside, the cold air was refreshing and when we had enough, we would run back inside.

Keep in mind WHY you care about your health--whether it be your family medical history, your goals for travel, or simply keeping your brain sharp. If you are a smarty who hasn't really been athletic, this bookworm has some science for you! Reasons to do something physical, is not only to protect your physical health, but also your mood and your brain (this is excerpted from a mind-body medicine blog):
* In elderly men with poor physical function, increasing general physical activity may potentially confer a protective effect or delay the onset for dementia. (Taaffe DRet al., J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2008 and Ahlskog JE et al., Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2011)
* According to an NIH study, regular aerobic exercise can modify the brain environment in such a way that the neurons are protected and may help prevent brain damage from diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease. (Harry GJ et al., Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2011)
* Regular exercise increases mitochondrial numbers in brain cells, a potential cause for exercise’s beneficial mental effects. Mitochondria produce the power for our cells, and have a role in cell growth and death. (Steiner JL et al., American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology, 2011)

Get physical and stay smart!