Tis the season…
The snow is falling, the social calendar is filling up and you still have work, shopping and exercise to fit in! It’s a busy month, it’s getting colder and typically our fitness routine is the first to go. It’s often time restraints or stress that affects our level of activity, but also our long winters can make us huddle indoors and dream of sandy beaches.
According to the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, 61% of adults over the age of 18 are insufficiently active for optimal health benefits. This puts us at a higher risk for chronic conditions, injuries and diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. Don’t let the cold weather turn you into a couch potato or the holiday stress get the best of you! Here are some ideas to stay fit, stay sane, and enjoy activities with friends and family over the winter season.
This stands for high intensity interval training. It’s a great way to shorten your workout while still maximizing your calorie burn. Interval training simply means doing shorter bursts of high intensity activity. You will actually burn more calories in a shorter period of time. If you only have 15-20min, you can choose 3-4 exercises and perform each one for 50 sec, with a 10 sec rest and repeat 3x. Alternatively, you can incorporate hills, walk/run stairs, or change your speed during an activity for 2-3min at a time. HIIT workouts are a great way to challenge your body, push through training plateaus and take your fitness to the next level.
Braving those cold winter days is so much more fun with someone else in tow. Recruit a friend or walk the neighbour’s dog, those furry friends never seem to get sick of the snow! Walking briskly for 30 minutes, 4-7 days a week can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and osteoporosis. Good boot grips, such as Yak Traks, and walking poles can add to your walking confidence and safety!
This activity looks easy, but rest assured it’s a workout for your heart, lungs, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors! Using poles also works your biceps, triceps, chest and back muscles. Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association has worked hard to create some beautiful, well marked snowshoe trails.
Cross Country Skiing
There are also some amazing XC ski trails out in West Bragg Creek. These trails are beautifully groomed and maintained. XC skiing is the optimal workout, by incorporating the arms with the legs in a weight bearing activity, this increases the workload on the cardiovascular system. Being a low impact activity, it is easier on the joints while strengthening the quads, glutes, hip flexors, triceps and back muscles.
Lace up and find a frozen surface – a rink, a lake, or a flooded backyard! The Parks Canada website provides information about where to skate outdoors and how to be safe. Have you ever skated on a frozen lake or river where you can still see the fish swimming below? It’s a beautiful experience. When the conditions permit, there is a track cleared for skating on the Bow River just near downtown Banff. Other great day trips include Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, and Johnson Lake in Banff National Park.
Do you want to build a snowman?
Packing, rolling and lifting that heavy, wet snow will work your back, arms and leg muscles. Remember as kids you could do this for hours? Make sure you are warmed up and lightly stretched before beginning. Bend your knees and lift with your legs to prevent any lower back or neck strains.
Oh, this dreaded winter chore! Snow blowers aside, there is always some amount of shovelling required. This is also a common mechanism of injury for lower back strains, disc injuries and shoulder strains. Ensure you warm up before digging in – try some shoulder circles, mini lunges and torso stretches. Good technique is the key to preventing injuries. Ensure you engage your abdominal muscles, bend your knees, hinge at the hips and try to maintain a straight back. Pushing the snow, rather than heaving it up and off to the side will do your back a favor as well. If you do have to pick up the snow, make sure you keep the load close to your body, fill the shovel only halfway and toss it in front of you. Twisting to throw snow off to the side puts undue stress on your lumbar discs, your neck and your shoulders. Shovelling can be good exercise if, like all activities, you are warmed up and prepared for it!
Proper clothing, footwear and necessary equipment can really help make an outdoor activity enjoyable. Staying hydrated is equally important during the winter while exercising outdoors. Brave the fresh air and have fun this winter season. Take some time for yourself or with family and friends to enjoy the invigorating winter air, the holiday lights and the shimmering snowflakes around you.
Our crew at Bragg Creek Physiotherapy wish you all a very happy holiday season and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2020 ahead!
Jennifer Gordon (BSc.PT, CGIMS, AFCI)