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5 Creative Ways to Stay Active This Winter
By: Jason Lewis, Founder strongwell.org

Freezing weather is no reason to let your fitness goals fall by the wayside. Sure, it’s easier to get outside for a run when it’s sunny and 70 than when you haven’t seen the sun for weeks, but there are plenty of ways to exercise without freezing your fingers off. Instead of resigning yourself to a winter paunch, try these tips for staying active all winter long.

1. Join a Fitness Class

We tell ourselves that signing up for a gym membership will motivate us to go, but the numbers say otherwise. According to data from Statistic Brain, 67 percent of gym memberships never get used. That’s an average of $58 down the drain every single month. Why the lack of follow-through? With monthly and annual memberships, it’s too easy to indefinitely put off going to the gym. But when you sign up for a fitness class that’s only a couple weeks long, procrastinating means missing your chance altogether. For a workout you’ll be excited to attend, sign up for a boxing, spin, pole dancing, or aerobarre class with a group of friends.

2. Build a Home Gym

When the roads are too icy to drive, a home gym is your saving grace. Whether you’re an experienced athlete or a reforming couch potato, you can meet nearly all your fitness needs within a small area of your home. You can build a simple home gym with a yoga mat, dumbbells, resistance bands, and a Bosu balance trainer for under $300—less than half the price of an annual gym membership.

3. Embrace Winter Sports

One of the best things about winter recreation is that, outside of busy ski areas, it feels like you have the whole world to yourself. While everyone else is hiding from the cold, why not embrace it and learn how to snowshoe or cross-country ski? You’ll see your favorite hiking trails in a whole new light while enjoying a heart-pumping workout that’s sure to keep your body temperature up. Just be sure to dress appropriately for the weather, paying special attention to keeping your feet, hands, and head dry and warm. If you’re new to winter sports, read the National Ski Patrol’s advice on dressing for warmth and comfort.

4. Take the Stairs

Exercise doesn’t only come in the form of sweaty workout sessions. Find creative ways to get your blood pumping throughout your busy day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the far end of the parking lot, stretch during your lunch break, and squeeze in mini-workouts during TV commercial breaks.

5. Grab Your Shovel

Shoveling snow might not be your idea of fun, but do it right, and you’ll get a surprisingly effective full-body workout. As you clear snow from the driveway, focus on pushing, not throwing the snow, and be sure to lift from your legs to prevent back injuries. If your driveway is too short to get proper workout, why not be a good neighbor and clear a few other driveways while you’re at it? Since shoveling poses a heart attack risk for adults over the age of 55, you’ll be doing a big favor for older neighbors.

Consistency is key to building a strong and healthy body, and that means not taking a break from physical activity just because it’s cold outside. Whether you’re a snow bunny or prefer to spend your winters in the comfort of a heated home, you can find ways to stay active even in the dead of winter. What are your favorite ways to work out in the winter months?

Image via Unsplash

In this special guest feature, Paige Johnson, a personal trainer and regular contributor at learnfit.org, shares tips to get fit without a gym.

If the thought of spending an hour at the gym using complicated equipment makes you run for the hills, consider getting fit in more fun ways. You don’t have to hit the elliptical machine to get in a workout. Many opportunities surround you, if you just look at them differently. Any activity that raises your heart rate and pushes your body outside its comfort zone can be exercise, including hula hooping or walking a dog.

1. Biking
Biking is great because it can be tailored to your personal fitness level. Conquering hills and reaching higher speeds can challenge you to push harder. If you need to take it slow, even a relaxing bike ride can burn around 281 calories per hour, according to Men's Fitness. Although you can use a stationary bike at the gym or in your home, getting on the real thing and enjoying the great outdoors is more fun! You can bike the road or sidewalk, or you can bike a trail.

2. Hula Hooping
With a little practice, you can utilize a hula hoop for a fun full-body workout.  Udemy notes that hula hooping uses as many as 30 of your muscles, including your back, abs, thighs, and calves. A hula hoop workout that integrates your arms and legs can burn up to 600 calories in an hour. As your brain works with your muscles to keep the hoop going, you’re building coordination and motor skills. Try out some exercise DVDs that incorporate hula hoops into the workout routine.

3. Dog Walking
Through its companionship, a dog can lower its owner’s stress levels. A dog can also help its owner stay in shape. Since walking a dog is an inherent part of dog ownership, you can let your dog do his business while you get exercise. A University of Missouri study found that overweight participants who walked their dogs for 20 minutes five days a week lost an average of 14 pounds. If you don’t own a dog, volunteer to walk your neighbor’s dog. You can even earn cash for walking dogs!

4. Tree Top Obstacle Course
A ropes course in the treetops is sure to get your adrenaline flowing. Treetop obstacle courses feature shaky bridges and platforms, slender planks, and tightropes that you must cross to get through the course. All of these challenges will work your whole body while building strength, coordination, and balance. You can go alone or with a group of friends.

5. Pilates
Pilates is defined as “a method of exercise that consists of low-impact flexibility and muscular strength and endurance movements” by Mayo Clinic. It enhances core strength, especially your abs, while putting very little pressure on your joints. It will also improve stability, muscle control, and endurance. Since Pilates requires a lot of concentration, you can clear your mind while you workout.

6. Swimming
Looking for a way to knock out cardio and strength training in one exercise? Give swimming a try. Fitness Magazines says, “In swimming, if you aren't moving constantly, you're sinking.” That’s some intense cardio. And since water is about 800 times denser than air, your muscles are under constant resistance, resulting in strength training. Being in water also means less wear and tear on your joints, and the arm motions of swimming will work muscles that are generally hard to exercise. While all exercises release endorphins that help lower stress levels, swimming releases its own special endorphins that are guaranteed to help you feel relaxed.

Don’t force yourself through boring exercises. Try these six fun exercise ideas, or come up with more ideas of your own. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have fun while you get fit.

About the Author
Paige Johnson is a self-described fitness “nerd.” She possesses a love for strength training. In addition to weight-lifting, she is a yoga enthusiast and avid cyclist. She enjoys writing about fitness and health for Learn Fit.