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Around Our Town: Wyoming Medical Center

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11/01/2012 - Challenge yourself to exercise this winter

By Mandy Cepeda

WMC Community Development Office

It's cold outside, but don't use this time of year as an excuse to hibernate! It's important to exercise in these winter months, regardless of what the mercury reads outside. Not only will it help with the extra few pounds so many people pack on in the winter, but it will ease the shock when department stores replace winter coats with bathing suits next spring.

Safety First

As with any exercise routine at any time of year, consult your doctor to work through the best options for you. And if you don't have a consistent exercise routine, make sure you don't overdo it when completing household chores like shoveling snow. "An unfortunate trend we have seen is an increase in heart attacks when shoveling snow," said Kendra Martin, exercise physiologist at Wyoming Medical Center. The dramatic change in temperature from warm to cold and then warm again along with the physical exertion is very difficult on the heart. Take your time when shoveling and tossing snow and take breaks to catch your breath.

The Great Indoors

For many people, boosting the heart rate in the cold weather is simply not an option. "Cold air can be hard on the lungs," said Martin. For those with lung conditions such as COPD, Martin recommends limiting exercise outside. Alternatively, she recommends taking a class at a gym where you can establish a routine and work different muscles while also learning safe movements.

If you can't get to a gym, consider bringing the gym to you. You don't need a large, expensive piece of exercise equipment to break a sweat. Run up and down your stairs for a few minutes, grab a jump rope or consider purchasing an exercise video. The library also has a wide variety of workout videos available to check out, and most don't require anything more than a couple of dumbbells and some motivation.

"The Wii is also a great form of exercise if it's your only form of exercise," said Martin, but be forewarned that studies show that calorie burns are much lower with exercise video games than with the real thing.

Get Outdoors

Certainly winter-time workouts require some planning and extra safety precautions, especially if you prefer to exercise outdoors. Cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing are also very accessible in our area with Casper Mountain an easy drive in safe conditions. If you didn't grow up a ski bum, multi-week lessons are offered every winter at both the downhill and Nordic ski areas, and ski and snowshoe rentals are available at Ragged Edge and Mountain Sports in Casper for those who aren't ready to commit to buying and storing cold-weather sports gear.

The City of Casper works hard to keep walking paths clear of ice and snow, Martin says, so depending on your hardiness, you may be able to keep your warmer-season workout routine intact without relying on your neighbor to shovel his walk. In any winter activity, be sure to dress in layers that you can easily remove if you get warm, and don't forget to stay hydrated even though you might not feel thirsty.

Whatever form of exercise you choose, know that anything is better than nothing. Just keep moving!

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