Between the frigid temperatures and shorter daylight hours, staying active during winter in the upper Midwest can feel like a challenge—but according to Bethel’s resident fitness and wellness experts, it’s important to find ways to keep moving.
“Cardiovascular activities and general body strengthening activities are beneficial on many levels,” says Leah Jackson, physical therapist and assistant professor of human kinetics and applied health sciences at Bethel. “A little bit of cardiovascular activity a day helps tremendously with the management of chronic pain conditions. General body strengthening helps with maintaining things like bone mineral density and the longevity of our functionality.”
Additionally, Jackson says, regular exercise increases focus and attention, boosts immune systems, improves mental health and wellbeing, and opens the doors to a variety of adventures—whether that’s discovering new active hobbies or simply keeping up with the children in your life.
“Being ‘active’ doesn’t have to be fancy, require memberships, or extravagant equipment,” Jackson says. “Though they are nice to have, they are not vital. Anything you do that can get your heart rate elevated for a given duration of time is beneficial.”
We worked with Jackson and Rick Meyer, director of Bethel’s Wellness Center, to create the following guide to staying active in the winter time. But before we dive in, just a reminder from Jackson: there can be risks with any activity. Consider checking with your doctor before you start any moderate or vigorous exercise, if this will be the first time jumping off the sofa and if you have any diagnosed cardiovascular, metabolic, or renal diseases.
With that, here are a few ways to get yourself moving this winter!
1. Bundle up, and go for a walk outside.
An easy go-to is simply bundling up and going for a walk. Aim for about 20 minutes at a pace that will increase your heart rate. You want to be breathing a bit heavy, but still able to have a conversation if you wish. If you are just starting out, a trip around the ol’ block is perfect. If you’ve been strolling for a while, find a nearby park or winter trail for something new.
2. Find an indoor space to get your steps in.
For the days that are just a little too cold, find a place to walk indoors. Make a few laps at a shopping mall, or if you’re on Bethel’s campus, we’ve mapped out three different walking courses throughout the buildings that can be used to stay warm while putting on miles.
3. Try an outdoor activity.
If you have cross country skis, snow shoes, or ice skates, take them out for an adventure. If you don’t have the equipment, check at local parks and ice rinks—they often have skis, snow shoes, and skates available to rent for a nominal fee.
4. Join an intramural sport or recreational league.
For college students, joining an intramural sport can be a great way to build connections, learn new skills, and stay active during the winter. Bethel offers a variety of options for students to choose from, including broomball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and more. Not a college student? A quick Google search could likely tell you what recreational sports leagues are available for adults in your community.
5. Use what you have at home for strength training.
Strength training can be completed in the comfort of your home without equipment. But should you desire some added weight, you can consider using a basket of laundry, milk jugs filled with water, or a backpack with books. Makeshift weights are great for arm exercise like bicep curls, overhead press, shoulder raises, etc. A backpack with books can be an excellent addition to some leg work like squats and lunges. And don’t forget your core! Some mini crunches, boat holds, or bicycles will help with trunk stability.
6. Download a fitness app.
There are a plethora of fitness apps out there—so many you can likely fill an entire winter season with free trials. Pick one and give it a go! If this is the first time you’ve worked out in a while, find a routine that includes gentle stretching, body support strengthening, and doesn’t require any equipment. If you’re a veteran at at-home workout routines, try a new style or a more intense version of your current training methods. Jackson’s go-to apps at the moment are “Down Dog” (for customizable yoga sessions) and “Fit!” which starts off light and doesn’t require equipment. Meyer recommends members of the Bethel community download the Wellness Center app for virtual workouts that can be done at home.
7. Keep an eye out for daily opportunities.
The overall goal is simply to keep moving, so be aware of the small actions that will help you stay active in your daily life: take the stairs, park in the back of the lot, stand for work. “Being sedentary is the ‘new’ smoking,” Jackson says. “Your current and, more importantly, your future self will thank you.”
At Bethel University, we care about the whole person, including your physical wellness. That’s why we provide a variety of opportunities to stay active year round. Learn more about Bethel’s Wellness Center, a facility where students, alumni, and employees can utilize state-of-the-art equipment and innovative programming to meet their fitness and health goals.