By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Tim Thomas runs like a clock — four days a week, rain or shine, summer or winter.
If that means he and his buddies have to bundle up against the freezing wind when they hit Mounds State Park or Shadyside Lake, so be it, he said.
“The hardest part is getting started,” said Thomas, 51 of Anderson. “But you take that first step and just go.”
He’ll use a treadmill if he has to, but it’s a last resort, he said.
Not everyone is so dedicated. After all, it’s really cold out there.
And, when it’s cold outside, people get out less. And when people get out less, they usually exercise less, said Dr. Rama Reddy, a family medicine specialist with St. Vincent Medical Group.
That’s compounded by the fact that people tend to eat more in winter, he said.
“In winter your body needs more calories to maintain core body temperature,” he said. “So, you tend to eat more and there is a possibility you will gain more weight in winter compared to summer.”
But how do you feel the burn when it’s freezing outside?
“There are plenty of things you can do inside,” said Angie Smith, fitness/wellness and aquatics director at the Anderson YMCA.
For example, the Y has stationary bikes, treadmills, a walking/jogging track and a swimming pool. All would be good for cardiovascular exercise, she said, which is important in burning off all those extra calories.
Or “you can go to mall or any shopping center and do brisk walking” for 30 to 40 minutes, Reddy said. “I would advise to buy a pedometer and walk at least 10,000 steps per day to keep up your fitness levels.”
But if you can’t get out of the house, don’t have any fancy equipment and can’t warm up to the idea of jogging against the freezing winter wind, Smith said there are plenty of exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home.
“Walk around the house,” Smith said. “Walk up and down the stairs. Get on the floor and rough-and-tumble with the kids.”
Not only does cardiovascular exercise help burn off that second (or fifth) cup of hot cocoa, it helps keep your heart healthy.
A recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s meeting in November found heart-related deaths are more likely in the winter than in the summer — 26 to 36 percent more likely, in fact.
The study didn’t look at causes, but lead author Dr. Bryan Schwartz hypothesized it could have something to do with the fact that “people generally don’t live as healthy in winter as they do in summer.” He also pointed to the seasonal up-spike in influenza and depression.
Other health problems affecting mainly older adults, like arthritis, joint discomfort and falls, are also more likely in the winter, Smith said.
To prevent those, she suggested strength training exercises to keep joints and muscles flexible.
Thomas said he mixes weightlifting and swimming into his regimen to stay rounded.
Again, the Y offers classes like water aerobics, and a gym with weights and equipment, but you can work your muscles at home almost as easily. Almost anything can be used as a free weight: soup cans, books or soda bottles.
If you do decide to exercise outside, take it easy. The AMHA says winter cold can be dangerous, especially for people who already have a heart condition.
Activities “like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person’s heart,” it said.
Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.