From an article I wrote for Examiner a few years back...
Most people living in Michigan will tell you they love the changing seasons; however, these are the same people who complain about those bouts of frigid, harsh weather between January and March. Wind chill advisories, winter storm warnings, limited sunshine—who wants to go outside at all, let alone, work out in such harsh conditions?
Rather than use the winter as an excuse to abandon your fitness goals, look at it as an opportunity to heat up your routine. Plus, according to Mayo Clinic, studies show that moderate exercisers get 20 to 30 percent fewer colds than non exercisers—and you won’t be scrambling to get in shape for swimsuit season when spring hits!
Invest in home exercise equipment
Making your home conducive to exercise will help you stick to your fitness goals. This could be as simple as clearing a space where you can work out to a fitness video or as elaborate as planning a home gym with weight and cardio equipment. Of course, this depends on how much money and space you have to work with, but consider the benefits. You can use it any time. There’s no commute. It’s much cleaner. You can concentrate more on your workout without feeling self-conscious or distracted by others.
With the popularity of the Wii, some people are turning to interactive video games for fitness. A study by the American Council on Exercise revealed potential fitness benefits of Wii Sports (baseball, bowling, boxing, golf and tennis) include increased heart rate, maximum oxygen intake and perceived exertion, translating into calories burned. However, boxing was the only Wii Sports game tested that would be considered intense enough to maintain or improve cardiorespriratory endurance as defined by accepted industry standards. It burned an average of 7.2 calories per minute.
Join a gym
Some people prefer the variety of equipment and camaraderie that a gym provides. In addition to free weights, weight machines, cardio equipment and group fitness classes, some facilities may house racquetball courts, basketball courts, pools and indoor tracks. Staff and personal trainers are usually on-hand to answer your questions.
If you decide to invest in membership, make sure to use it! According to Medical News Today, 80 percent of 40 million Americans who have bought gym memberships are not using them. Before joining, make sure it is affordable for your budget, open at convenient times for your schedule and close enough to hit on the way home from work. In addition to commercial gyms, check out facilities at colleges, hospitals, churches, YMCA/YWCA and community centers.
Take a class or join a rec team
Play basketball. Learn to salsa. For those who don’t want to deal with the cost or commitment of joining a gym but find it motivating to be surrounded by other fitness-minded people, taking a class or joining a team can be excellent ways to find an activity you enjoy in a supportive environment. Sports and fitness classes (strength training, abs, aerobics, sports-specific training, dance, mind/body) are often available in six-week increments through fitness facilities, colleges, community education programs and parks/recreation departments.
Dress for the weather and brave the elements
The Michigan Depression Outreach and Collaborative Care (MDOCC) estimates that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects 4 to 6 percent of the general population with women outnumbering men four to one. The disorder becomes more common and severe the farther people are from the equator. Some treatments include light therapy and, recently, increased vitamin D consumption. Fish, eggs, fortified milk and cod liver oil all contain significant vitamin D, as does sunshine. Getting as little as 10 minutes of exposure a day is thought to be enough to prevent deficiencies. So taking your workout outside (even in the cold) could help if you feel depressed during the winter months.
Layering your clothes and keeping the extremities (ears, hands, feet) warm will keep you comfortable in less than ideal conditions. A base layer of clothing keeps moisture/perspiration away from your body. A middle layer will provide insulation, and an outer layer should block wind and keep moisture from getting in. Wear a hat/winter headband, gloves, socks (maybe two layers depending on the activity) and appropriate footwear.
You can still jog (and some even bike) during the winter, but snow allows you to enjoy other activities that you may start to miss in the spring. Skiing (downhill and cross country) tends to be a popular sport in Michigan. Snowshoeing and ice-skating can also provide cardiovascular benefit. Check out Campus Martius Park if you haven’t already! You could also take your children (or someone else’s) sledding. It’ll put a smile on your face— and think of the calories you’ll burn and the calf muscles you’ll tone walking back up the hill.