How to stay active in winter

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Staying physically active in the winter months is essential to your health. I learned this the hard way during my first winter in Manitoba. In the flurry of activities newcomers get into upon arriving (settling in, attending workshops, job-hunting, etc.), I forgot about my health. There was so much to think about and accomplish every day. To compensate, I would eat too much and take long naps in the early afternoon. I did not go out much because it was just too cold. The result was increased lethargy and unhealthy weight gain in just a few weeks. I also noticed that my general mood became low and I got sick easily.

Why do we need to stay active?

According to Manitoba Healthy Living and Seniors, physical activity increases energy levels, helps us handle stress better and strengthens the heart and lungs. Moderate-intensity physical activities can lead to improved fitness, strength, and mental health. We need these to combat the increased stress of integrating and job-hunting in the first few months.

Moreover, exercising can help reduce the risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity.

For adults, 18-64 years old, 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (in bouts of 10 minutes or more) per week is recommended. You can also add muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least two days a week. The more physical activities you add to your regimen, the greater the health benefits (Manitoba Healthy Living and Seniors Physical Activity Guidelines).

Ways to be active in winter months

Coupled with a good diet, keeping active is the best way to stay healthy, whatever season it is. In winter, make sure that you are properly dressed, especially if you plan to go outdoors. Layer your clothes to keep warm. Get good footwear that will protect your feet and keep you from slipping on ice. Read Winnipeg Health Region’s (WRHA) tips to help you stay warm while doing outdoor activities. Here are a few suggestions to help you start an active lifestyle in winter:

  1. Merge physical activity with your everyday life. Make a conscious effort to include small activities that will increase your heartbeat and move your muscles and bones. For example:
    • Walk instead of driving (when possible).
    • Bike (when possible).
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
    • Use standing desks to reduce the amount of time sitting.
    • Shovelling snow is a great moderate physical activity. But take precaution if you have a heart problem. Read shovelling snow safely from WRHA.

    Take it from these hardy Winnipeggers (CBC Manitoba):

    Cold temperatures can't keep these Winnipeggers down

    Freezing temperatures are no problem for these hardy Winnipeggers.Read more:

    Posted by CBC Manitoba on Wednesday, January 4, 2017

  2. Involve your kids in winter activities. Just like you, they need physical exercise to stay healthy. Also, when they see you keeping active, you set a good example for them. You can enroll in a mom and kid skating class. Take them with you when you go out walking. Stop them from spending too much time playing computer games by letting them help you shovel snow from your yard. Encourage them to play in the snow, get into snowball fights, or build snowmen and snow forts. These are also great bonding moments you and your kids will remember for a long time.
  3. Know what you want to do. Before you invest in an expensive exercise machine, know what you like to do. A treadmill or stationary bike may be effective, but you can get bored with them after a while. It is a good idea to consult your doctor prior to starting a regimen to know what is ideal for you (especially if you have heart problems).

    If you want to start exercising at home, there are a lot of videos on the net you can follow. Here’s a sample YouTube video from Yoga with Adrienne: Yoga for complete beginners – 20 minute home yoga workout:

  4. But if you need motivation from a coach or if you exercise better with a group, join a gym or class at your local community centre. You can also join a community walking or running group. These activities are also great for networking.

  5. Set a regular schedule for exercise. This will help make it a habit for you. A trick to make it more doable is to plan your activities a week at a time. During the weekend, get a calendar and map out your activities for the week. You can try setting aside 30 minutes every morning for mild physical activity or yoga. But if mornings are too busy for you, exercise in the afternoon after work. Just don’t schedule it very near to your bed time because it may make it hard for you to fall asleep.
  6. Make it an adventure. As part of discovering Canada, learn a new sport. Try winter outdoor activities like skiing or tobogganing. Or go to winter festivals all over the province. For more ideas, read 150 things to do this winter in Manitoba. You will begin to appreciate the beauty of Manitoba and learn more about its culture and history. The more you go out and experience the outdoors, the more you will be acclimatized and resistant to the cold.

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Community Resources

Find out where you can be physically active in your neighborhood in three ways:

  1. Read the City of Winnipeg Leisure Guide. You can get free copies at all City of Winnipeg libraries, recreation and leisure centres, and indoor pools. Online, you can get it here: Leisure Guide.
  2. Go to the Community Centre nearest you to ask about programs available. You can also consult your neighborhood settlement worker.
  3. Go to Winnipeg in Motion to get information about the right kind of physical activities for your age. Also get tips, information about events, and other resources on the site.

Mosaic Newcomer Family Resource Network offers free skating lessons in winter. Check their website, call, or visit them and inquire about their schedules to register.

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