How to stay active in winter

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Staying active in the winter months is important for your health. I learned this the hard way. Being a busy newcomer (settling in, attending workshops, job searching, etc.), I forgot about my health. There was so much to think about and to do every day. To get through the day, 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. As a result, I was sleepy and gained extra weight. As well, my general mood was 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 manage stress and strengthens the heart and lungs. So, a moderate amount of physical activity can improve both physical and mental health. We need these to manage the increased stress of adjusting and job-hunting 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.

For adults, 2.5 hours of moderate to high intensity physical activity (in sessions of 10 minutes or more) per week is advised. 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 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 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.

    Take it from these tough 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. Moreover, when they see you being active, they are likely to follow your good 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 structures. 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 start feeling bored with it after a while. Instead, think of something that you really like. Also, it is a good idea to see your doctor prior to starting exercising to know what is best for you (especially if you have health conditions).

    If you want to start exercising at home, many online videos can help you. Here’s an example YouTube video from Yoga with Adrienne: Yoga for complete beginners – 20 minute home yoga workout:

    You can also join a gym or class at your local community centre, as well as a community walking or running group. These activities are great for socializing.

  4. Set a regular schedule for exercise. This will help make it a habit for you. A trick to staying on track with your plan is to schedule your activities a week at a time. 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.
  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.

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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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