By Patricia Cherasard, PA-C, MBA
Walking may be one of the easiest and most effective ways to stay fit. Just think... all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other! But once winter rolls around, you might be more inclined to hang up your walking shoes and hibernate indoors, right?
Wait...not so fast! If you’re determined to end the year with your weight loss progress intact, the winter can be a perfect time to keep your momentum going—even if you don’t like the cold. Here a few tips that will help you get started, no matter what the weather.
Benefits of Walking
It’s natural for you to want to hibernate during the wintertime because the days are shorter and the temperature can be too cold. However, there are many great benefits to winter walking. Walking has been shown to help with weight loss, physical fitness, reduction of high blood pressure, lowering of cholesterol, and decrease the risk of diabetes. Winter walking helps to keep your bones strong by allowing the natural form of vitamin D to be taken in through sunlight allowing more absorption of calcium to the bones. And, walking can also improve your mood, help to decrease stress and motivate you to eat healthy and stay fit.
Be Sure to Stay Safe
Once you’ve decided to give winter walking a chance, your first priority should be safety. Take your workout indoors if there is risk of frostbite (temp -20 degrees F), if it’s too icy, too high of a wind chill, or if the area you are in is considered unsafe.
If you are walking alone bring your cell phone and/or tell someone where you are going so they are aware.
Remember to Dress Appropriately
Wear the right layers and clothing that will make your walking experience more enjoyable. Don’t forget your hat, gloves, and scarves if necessary. If there is snow on the ground, then wear comfortable snow boots. If you don’t have snow boots, then wear athletic shoes with good traction.
Remember to Stay Hydrated
Bring water along. Keep in mind that you need as much water in the winter as you do in the warmer months.
Treat the Walking Session as a True Exercise Session, Not Just a Stroll
Use a heart rate monitor or a pedometer to track your progress. This will tell you how many steps you have taken and how many calories you have burned. Don’t forget to stretch before and after your walk. Take a warm shower afterwards to relax those muscles and clear the mind.
Keep it Consistent
Identify how many days a week you can walk. Determine the best time of day for you so you don’t decide to pass up the walk. Get yourself a walking buddy. This will help you to stay accountable and allow you to look forward to your walking session.
Hope You Enjoy Your Winter Walk!