Prairie Fare: Stay motivated to maintain your fitness this winter
Every morning when I arrive at work, I come to a fork in my path.
It’s not a real fork. This week’s column is not about food.
As soon as I walk into my building, I have to make a choice.
I can take the elevator, which is a few steps directly to my right. Or, I can walk up the stairs, which are directly ahead of me.
My office is on the third floor of my building. Accumulating some steps when taking the stairs is better for my health.
Some days, the elevator wins. After navigating the sometimes-icy sidewalks on the way to my building, I may not be motivated. The soles of my boots often may be caked with snow and ice.
I use the elevator when I have several bags or a cartload of supplies to return to my office.
I am glad the elevator is convenient for everyone who enters our building. Some people have injuries or disabilities.
I just have excuses some days.
Winter is a time when accumulating 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week can be challenging. Maintaining healthful eating and regular physical activity go hand in hand with maintaining or improving our health throughout the year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physical activity has immediate and long-term benefits.
A single time of getting moderate to vigorous physical activity can improve the quality of our sleep. It can reduce anxiety and lower our blood pressure.
If you want to reduce your risk for several chronic diseases, aim for regular physical activity. It can be accumulated in small chunks throughout the day.
For example, getting regular physical activity can reduce your risk for depression, dementia and potentially Alzheimer’s disease. Regular physical activity can help prevent heart disease and diabetes.
If you want to reduce your risk for eight types of cancer, get regular physical activity. Researchers have shown that regular physical activity can reduce your risk for cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung and stomach.
As we move toward New Year’s resolutions, be aware that physical activity, along with healthful eating, can help with weight management. Weight-bearing exercise such as walking can improve your bone strength and can reduce your risk of falls.
How are you doing with physical activity? The experts at CDC recommend accumulating 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every week, along with two times of muscle-strengthening training. For example, the moderate activity could be a 30-minute walk one day and a 15-minute jog another day.
We face some obstacles to outdoor fitness during winter months in the Midwest, so these are some ideas to keep yourself moving even when the thermometer dips.
- Park farther from your destination. In cold weather, bundle up with a heavy coat, boots, mittens, hat, hood and/or scarf.
- Take the stairs when possible.
- Make wintry weather your friend. Consider learning how to cross-country ski, snowshoe or ice skate. Remember that snow shoveling is exercise, but follow the tips in the NDSU Extension publication, “The Scoop on Snow Shoveling Safely” at ndsu.ag/shoveling.
- Find a buddy to keep you motivated. Schedule physical activity with your buddy. The walks can be indoors at a school or mall or other facility that allows walkers. If you have a gym membership, a friend can help you stay motivated.
- If you have a sedentary job, try to stand up a few minutes every hour. Even better, get up and walk around a few times a day.
- If you have a sedentary job, have “walking meetings” instead of sitting at your desk. Adjust your camera and stand or walk in place during online meetings.
- Consider getting a standing desk and/or using an exercise ball as your chair for part of the day. An exercise ball may help with good posture because you could “roll off” your chair if you are not supporting yourself.
- If walking is a challenge or not possible for you, consider chair exercises and strength exercises. See the NDSU Extension publication “Stretching Toward Better Health” at ndsu.ag/stretching. It includes photos of easy physical activities to motivate you to retain your range of motion and flexibility regardless of your physical abilities.
Be sure to stay hydrated regardless of the season of the year. A warm beverage such as hot cocoa or herbal tea can warm you after being outside. Here’s an old recipe that still remains popular.
Spiced Tea Mix
- 1½ cups orange breakfast drink powder (such as Tang)
- ¾ cup iced tea mix (unsweetened)
- 1½ cups white sugar
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground cloves
Mix contents in a large bowl. Store mixture in an airtight, quart-size container. Decorate container as desired.
For each serving, place 1 cup boiling water in a mug and stir in 1 to 3 teaspoons of mix (to taste).
Makes 64 servings. Each serving (3 teaspoons of mix) has 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of protein, 10 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fiber and 0 milligrams of sodium.
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson.