Plan Now for Winter Fitness

As the days become shorter and the temperatures drop, it can be tempting to spend more time curled up in front of a fire reading, knitting or watching television.  But hibernating all winter can quickly undo fitness and health achievements gained during the Spring and Summer months. Creating a winter fitness plan to stay active in cold and snowy conditions may take a bit more effort and creativity, but with the right gear, a home gym, or a community centre membership – staying fit and socially engaged can continue throughout the entire calendar year. 

As people age, they naturally lose muscle mass.  Starting as early as age 30, adults can begin to lose as much as 3 to 5 percent of their muscle each decade.  Most men will lose about 30 percent of their muscle mass during a lifetime. Less muscle can affect not only strength in older age but also mobility which can increase the risk of falls and fractures. 

The good news is that it is never too late to rebuild and preserve muscle mass. Strength-building resistance training can gradually increase power and endurance, help older adults stay strong, and increase lean body mass.  Eating enough protein can also help support muscle building – healthy choices include lean chicken or salmon, plain Greek yogurt, skim milk and cooked beans. 

Before starting any new exercise or strength-training program, talk first with your doctor and consider using a personal trainer initially to set up an appropriate regime, and ensure you are using the correct technique and form to prevent injury.  

In addition to two or three days of strength training, adults should also get about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week.  Nordic walking, swimming, spinning, cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing are all fun ways to stay fit during winter months.  If you are exercising outdoors in cold weather, dress in layers and wear sturdy, grippy boots – and don’t forget to stay hydrated in colder weather too!   When the weather is really nasty, try an online Pilates, Tai Chi, or Yoga class to help maintain flexibility, balance and core strength.