How to stay active in winter

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Staying active in the winter months is important for our health. I learned this the hard way.

I was so busy attending workshops, applying for jobs, and getting used to my new neighbourhood in my first weeks here. There was so much to think about and do that I felt overwhelmed. I would eat junk food and take long naps in the afternoon to cope with this feeling. I did not go out much because it was too cold. As a result, I became sluggish and gained extra weight. My mood was always low and became sickly.

Why do we need to stay active?

According to Manitoba Healthy Living and Seniors, physical activity increases energy levels, strengthens the heart and lungs, and helps in managing stress. Moderate amount of physical activity can also improve both physical and mental health. We need to stay healthy to manage the increased stress of adjusting in the first few months upon our arrival.

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

How much physical activity do we need? For adults, two and a half hours of moderate to high intensity activity (in sessions of 10 minutes or more) per week is advised. You can also add muscle and bone strengthening activities at least two days a week. The more physical activities you add to your routine, the greater the health benefits (Manitoba Healthy Living and Seniors Physical Activity Guidelines).

Ways to be active in winter months

Together with a good diet, keeping active is the best way to stay healthy in any season. In winter, make sure that you are warmly dressed if you plan to go outdoors. Wear layers. 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. Add physical activity to your everyday life. Set a goal 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 work desks to reduce the amount of time sitting.
    • Shovelling snow is a great physical activity. But be cautious if you have a heart problem. Read shovelling snow safely from WRHA.
  2. Involve your kids in winter activities. Just like you, they need exercise to stay healthy. When they see that you’re active, they are likely to follow your example. You can sign up for a mom and kid skating class. Take them with you when you go out walking. Let them help you shovel snow from your yard. Encourage them to play in the snow, build snowmen and snow forts. These are also great opportunities to spend time together, which you and your kids will remember for a long time.
  3. Know what you want to do. Find out what physical activity you enjoy. An exercise machine could be effective, but you may get bored with it after a while. Ask your doctor for suggestions especially if you have health conditions.

    Look for videos online if you want to exercise at home. The YouTube video “Yoga with Adrienne: Yoga for complete beginners – 20 minute home yoga workout” is a good example:

    You can also join a gym, or a class at your local community centre. A community walking or running group is another good option. These activities are also great for socializing.

  4. Set a regular schedule for exercise. To stay on track, schedule your activities a week at a time. For example, you can set 30 minutes every morning for mild physical activity or yoga. If mornings are too busy for you, exercise in the afternoon after work. Don’t schedule it very near your bed time because it can make it hard for you to fall asleep.
  5. Make it fun. 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 adjusted and resistant to the cold.

Article updated October 17, 2023.

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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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