Staying fit through the cold this winter

BIG RAPIDS — While cold weather can make staying fit seem more difficult, it’s just as important to remain active in the winter as it is during warmer seasons.

Staying healthy and fit reflects on a person’s overall quality of health and not working out during the winter leads to a loss of fitness, said Dr. Scott VanderHill, family medicine doctor at Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital.

“It’s extremely important to stay active because if you don’t, you lose the fitness you’ve acquired and it’s difficult to get that back,” VanderHill said. “In Michigan, winter can last for so long and you definitely don’t want to be unfit for half the year.”

VanderHill recommends people make a fitness plan and find something they enjoy doing when it comes to exercise and staying fit.

“If you don’t like doing the activity, you’ll find excuses not to do it and eventually quit doing it,” he explained.

Cross country skiing, ice skating, shoveling snow and playing hockey are some possible outdoor activities VanderHill recommends.

“There are a variety of things you can do,” he said. “You also could take a dance class or join a sports league. The important thing is to do something with good movement to work your heart and lungs.”

The health benefits to exercising are many, VanderHill said. Improving cardio health is a top reason to exercise, with heart disease now a leading cause of death. Exercising also helps contribute to overall health and wellbeing, with people who stay active being less depressed, getting better sleep and elderly people who exercise experience less falls, he added.

It’s important to pick an activity that fits into a schedule and routine, like after or before work, and should be something local, so it doesn’t take too much time to get there.

Taking a walk is one of the simplest activities a person can do to get moving, VanderHill said.

“Just bundle up and get outside,” VanderHill said. “Maybe grab the dog’s leash and take them along, too.”

Treadmills and other exercise machines can be great for working out indoors, but VanderHill again notes it should be an activity that is fun for the person.

“If you don’t like watching TV while walking on the treadmill, you won’t commit to it,” he said. “You’ll fall off the wagon pretty quickly.”

For those who do enjoy workout equipment, joining a gym can be a good idea because of the variety of machines available.

“There are a lot of things you can do here at the gym,” said BeagleFit owner Jon Beagle. “Ideally, you want to work your lungs and get some cardio in because those exercises are what add to your lifespan.”

People who don’t want to join a gym can do exercises at home, such as pushups, situps, body lunges and more, Beagle said.

VanderHill suggests getting at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week.

“It really is crucial to your health to make time for fitness,” he said. “What you do now for your health has tremendous implications on your health for the rest of your life.”