With winter approaching, and the arrival of the COVD-19 ‘second wave’, many of you will likely be spending more time at home over the coming months. Staying at home when it’s cold and wet outside often leads to people becoming more sedentary, which can make you feel sluggish and lethargic. However, there are a number of lifestyle changes and things you can do at home to stay active during winter, and when you might not feel like going out.
The benefits of doing exercise in the winter
In addition to the health benefits of adhering to a regular exercise routine, being active in colder weather has several advantages when compared with doing exercise in the summer:
- You don’t have to cope with the extra heat or higher levels of humidity.
- Getting more exposure to sunlight during winter helps to improve your mood, and stimulates vitamin D production.
- Exercise helps to keep your immune system healthy over the cold and flu season.
Go walking, but keep warm
The effects of winter, in combination with lockdown, can make us feel tired, and lacking in energy. By going for a walk in the fresh air, you can perk yourself up, and improve your physical and mental health.
According to Harvard Health, walking regularly, and at the right level of intensity, can reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Walking briskly for 30-minutes per day counts as ‘moderate-intensity’ exercise. Every week, you need to aim for at least 150-minutes of moderate-intensity activity.
Damp weather conditions, colder temperatures, and strong winds reduce your body heat, so it’s essential to wrap up warm when going out. Having enough layers of clothing made of the right materials will help keep you warm and dry. It’s best not to wear clothes made of cotton because they trap moisture, which makes you feel colder. It’s better to wear high-performance sportswear for your first layer, which takes moisture away from your body. The second layer should be some sort of fleece, and your outer layer should be a thin waterproof.
Use your stairs
Inevitably over winter, there will be days where you don’t want to go out. If you’ve got stairs in your house, regularly going up and down them can be a way of staying active while you’re at home. Don’t put off going upstairs when you need to. If you have a downstairs toilet, use the upstairs one instead. For added difficulty, you could try climbing two stairs at a time.
Do things around the house
By doing chores, gardening, cleaning, and vacuuming around the house, you can reduce the effects of declining physical fitness levels in your older age.
During the winter months, you could do things like raking the leaves, cleaning the windows, or if you have a dog, play fetch with him in the garden. Anything that keeps you moving around will contribute towards living a more active lifestyle.
How can I exercise indoors in the winter?
Just the thought of having to make the journey to the gym is often a barrier to exercise, especially now with the colder weather on the way, and the strong possibility of further COVID-19 restrictions.
What can you do at home instead? Find a space, or clear out the spare room and make it into a home gym. With just a yoga mat and a few sets of dumbbells or resistance bands, you have everything you need to work out at home.
Below are a few different exercises you can do which raise your heart rate and improve your strength. You could rest a few minutes between sets and exercises, or to make it harder, do each exercise in succession without resting.
Burpees are an equipment-free exercise that significantly elevate your heart rate, and help to keep you fitter and stronger.
- From a standing position, squat down, and place your hands on the floor. Gently kick your legs behind you to bring yourself into a press-up position.
- Bring your knees back to your chest.
- Jump back up to a standing position while raising your arms to the ceiling.
- Repeat until you are breathless.
After around 10 burpees, you will be out-of-breath. Take a couple of minutes to catch your breath back, and try another set.
Like burpees, jumping jacks (star jumps) give you an aerobic workout. Aim for 30 seconds of continuous jumping, and then try to add an extra 10 seconds each week.
Overhead presses work your shoulders and triceps. With a pair of lightweight dumbbells, hold a weight in each hand, and shoulder-width apart. Press the weights up above your head, and gently touch them together. Carefully lower the weights down to about shoulder-height, and repeat. Aim for 10-15 reps per set.
Like overhead presses, these are another shoulder exercise, but they work the sides of your shoulders more.
Holding a light weight in each hand by your sides, slowly raise each arm out to the sides until they’re both parallel with the floor. Gradually lower the weights back down to your sides. Try to do 12-15 reps per set. If you can only manage a few reps, the weights are too heavy. For inactive and sedentary seniors, a weight of 2 or 3 Kg should be enough.
Get into an all-fours position, with your hands and knees about shoulder-width apart. Lift one leg off the floor and slowly kick it behind you until your thigh is in line with your back. The bottom of your foot should be facing up to the ceiling. You will feel it work your glute and core muscles. Return your leg to the floor and repeat. Do around 10 kicks on each leg.
Seniors’ home workout video
For some extra variety and workout ideas to do at home, take a look at Go4Life’s 15-minute workout for seniors below. It combines gentle aerobic activity with body-strengthening exercises.
Keep up your levels of motivation
The winter months and tighter COVID-19 restrictions are likely to make us all a bit less active, so bear in mind that it’s essential to eat healthily, and make more of an effort to stay active during the colder months that are ahead.