Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could bottle up your highest level of fitness and health and have it “cover you” during more sedentary periods? Like when it’s too cold or you’re just too busy to go to yoga class … or out for a run … or to the gym? Wouldn’t it be neat if you could maintain your level of conditioning through weeks, maybe months of inactivity? And your blood pressure wouldn’t climb? Your blood sugar wouldn’t rise? Your joints wouldn’t stiffen and your waistline thicken?
It’s a fantasy. But every year many of us start putting exercise on the back burner as the holiday season begins. “Unfortunately, fitness requires consistent performance in order to maintain the benefits that you’ve achieved,” says Brad Schoenfeld, MSc, CSCS, author of Women’s Home Workout Bible. “This speaks to the ‘use it or lose it’ principle. Detraining takes effect fairly quickly. You begin to lose aerobic benefits after less than a week of ceasing activity. Strength gains begin to decline in a matter of weeks. The only way to maintain results is to stay active.”
Exercise and Stay Healthy
“Inactivity results in poor posture, reduced strength, impaired cardiovascular capacity, increased bone resorption, reduced insulin sensitivity, higher resting heart rate, lower stroke volume … the list goes on and on,” says Schoenfeld, named 2011 Personal Trainer of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Being active helps you feel better today, sleep better tonight, and avoid serious illness down the road.
What to Shoot For
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week, and muscle-strengthening activities, working all major muscle groups, on two or more days a week. And, great news: You don’t need to spend 30 minutes straight on an aerobic activity: alternatively, you can do three 10-minute sessions of aerobic exercise.
Take It Outside
Weather permitting, exercising outdoors is a great idea—whether you ski, skate, walk, or jog. Time in full-spectrum light helps mitigate the mood-lowering effects of winter days, referred to as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. It also enables your body to produce vitamin D, which strengthens the immune system. In fact, winter is very well-suited for cross-training, which generally means combining different types of exercise.
House bound? “It is absolutely possible to stay fit at home,” says Schoenfeld. “All you need is a few square feet and you can get a good workout using just your body weight.”
Maintain your strength and endurance with circuits of push-ups, bodyweight squats and lunges, triceps extensions with the resistance bands and planks. Get your heart rate up with jumping jacks, mountain climbers and military-style squat thrusts. Lots of online sites show you the “how to.” Jump rope, jog in place, or dance. Or pop in a workout DVD of your choice. Stretching, yoga, or tai chi can improve the range of motion around your joints, ease tightness and help you avoid injury.
Multiple studies show that although light exercise can boost immunity, intense exercise appears to suppress immunity in the short run. Don’t let a cold or flu sideline you. Stay strong with these cold-weather workout supplement essentials:
Whey protein enhances muscle synthesis after exercise and promotes normal blood pressure; increases levels of antioxidant glutathione. The immunoglobulins and lactoferrin in whey strengthen the immune system against viruses and bacteria. Try True Athlete Natural Whey Protein with 20 gm of hormone-free whey protein, plus pre- and probiotics. Take according to label instructions.
Vitamin D boosts immunity, especially important during the short days of winter. 600-2,000 IU/day are recommended.
Vitamin C and E both strengthen immunity. Vitamin C: Take 250-500 mg/day. Vitamin E: Take 400 IU/day.
Elderberry syrup has been found in studies to be effective against viruses and bacteria; helps fight cold and flu bugs.