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Don't Hibernate: Stay Active this Winter

Benefits include lower blood pressure, improved sleep, and less fatigue

Veteran exercising

Most of us tend to "slow down" during the winter, with shorter days and longer nights. However, physical activity over the winter is just as important as during better weather months. Exercising regularly has proven benefits. These include lower blood pressure and blood glucose, improved sleep and mood, and less fatigue, joint pain, and constipation. So, keep moving during cooler weather and keep track of your exercise goals in My HealtheVet with these tips:

Get started!

It does not matter what physical activity you select but start moving. According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, everyone can improve their health with physical activity. You may want to check with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program if you have health concerns or chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.

Be safe

  • Dress appropriately for the weather

  • Cover your head, neck, and face

  • Layer your clothing to protect against wind and cold

  • Use caution for outdoor activity

    • In slick conditions make sure shoes have proper traction

    • Wear sunscreen when needed, in warm or cooler weather

  • If snow or ice makes it dangerous to exercise outside, plan to increase activity:
    • At home

    • At the gym

    • At the mall

  • Warm up and cool down

    • If you are planning to exercise, remember to start with a warm-up

    • Cool down and stretch following your session

    • This lowers your risk for injury and helps keep you motivated to do more

Set your exercise goal

You can set and track your exercise goals in My HealtheVet's Track Health with your Activity Journal (sign in required).

  • Exercise at least 3-5 days a week, and more often if you can

  • Aim for a total of 2½ hours each week of at least moderate intensity cardiovascular and resistance (strengthening) activity

  • Make gradual increases in physical activity part of your daily routine - little changes add up

    • Park farther away from the entrance to a store, or church and walk the extra distance

    • Take the stairs - up or down

  • Walking is simple, easy, and affordable
    • Lowest dropout rate of any physical activity

    • Simplest positive change you can make to improve your heart health

    • Walk as often and as much as possible, whether it's outside, at a gym or in the mall

    • Get a buddy and go walking together

    • You are more likely to start and continue any program you begin with a partner

  • Swim
    • Go to an indoor pool at a local community center or fitness complex

    • Swimming strengthens muscles and gets your heart pumping

    • Swimming leaves you feeling energized and fit

  • Dance
    • Dancing can be high or low impact exercise

    • Ballroom dancing can improve your balance and flexibility

    • Square dancing and aerobic dance will improve your cardiovascular fitness

    • Look for dance classes at a local community center, senior center, or community college

  • Exercise at home
    • Use an inexpensive set of dumbbells or resistance bands for strength training

    • Do jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups - you don't need any special equipment

    • Check the TV listings for an exercise program

    • Follow a DVD or video at home

Those who live in warm climates have plenty of opportunities to stay active year round. However, for many of us, it requires some planning. The benefits of staying active are well worth the effort, and the healthy exercise habits you start this winter will keep you moving well through 2020.

Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

Where do you exercise during the winter?

Read More

Physical Activity Center

Exercise and Physical Activity (NIH National Institute on Aging)

Move Your Way (Department of Health and Human Services)

Your Orthopaedic Connection: Warm Up, Cool Down and Be Flexible (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons)

Updated December 16, 2019