Keeping Fit in Colder Weather
Make sure you’re agile, not fragile—particularly during the winter
Squeezing a regular exercise routine into your schedule in nippy weather, when days are shorter and holiday madness cranks up, can seem nearly impossible. Little wonder that we gain more weight, are less active and suffer more heart attacks during the winter months than any other time of the year.
But if you engage in regular exercise, you’ll reduce your risk of heart- and obesity-related complications such as diabetes and high blood pressure, improve sleep patterns and help combat the mood swings that are common during the winter months.
One often-overlooked form of exercise suitable for indoor workouts is agility training. It focuses on improving coordination through quick, directional movements. If you’ve ever had to navigate over an unexpected hole in the ground, stop a child from walking into traffic, or simply grab a falling grocery bag, you know how much strain such movements can put on your body. How well you succeed at these tasks is often an indicator of how agile you are. There are many ways to improve your moves, most of which require little time or expense. A few agility-promoting exercises are described here.
Push-ups use several muscle groups to maintain form and balance.
- With a stopwatch handy, start on your knees or toes with your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart, and head in line with your torso.
- Keeping torso straight, bend your elbows to the side and lower your upper body toward the ground; return to your starting position.
- Perform as many push-ups as you can, with proper form, in 30 seconds.
- Start by doing this exercise once a day; work up to 2 to 3 times a day.
Dot drills improve speed and reaction time. To get started, clear a spot on a nonslip surface at least 4 feet long by 4 feet wide. At each corner and in the middle of this space, place a target.
- Stand on the middle target with both feet. Jump to one of the corner targets, then back to the middle. Repeat this sequence for each corner target until you are comfortable with the motion.
- Next, increase the pace. Or make it more complex: Starting with one foot on each of the back corner targets, jump to middle target on one foot, then forward to two corner targets with one foot on each. Reverse this sequence and repeat at least 10 times. Spend 5 to 10 minutes each day performing these exercises.
You can buy agility ladders online for about $40—or just draw a ladder on the floor. You’ll need 8 to 10 rungs about 18" apart (adjust to suit your foot fall).
- Hop forward through the rungs using both feet. Repeat 5 times.
- Next, try different combinations (jump forward two rungs and back one; turn your body 90 degrees and jump laterally through the rungs). Spend 5 to 10 minutes a day doing this.
Jessica Smith has a master’s degree in bioengineering. She holds certifications from the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and the American College of Sports Medicine.