Cold Weather Walking

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Stay warm and toasty while you stay fit this winter

Don’t let cold temps keep you from walking this winter, take steps to ensure you can stick with your usual exercise routine all winter. Walking in the winter can be especially good for your health. A study by Ocobock (2017) found that people burn 34% more calories when they walk in cold weather than they do in milder conditions. The invigorating cold air can clear your mind and reduce stress, which can be helpful for weight loss. No matter what weather you’re facing, this guide should help you stay on your feet all through the winter months. It may be hard, but we promise you’ll look fantastic come spring, you’ll feel great mentally, your bones will stay strong, and your walking muscles won’t be screaming when you head out for your first warm-weather jaunt.

Remember that it takes time and effort:

It is recommended that all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise every week. Use the “sing-talk test” to figure out if you’re stepping at a nice moderate pace. You should walk at a pace fast enough so that you are too breathless to sing, but not so fast you can’t talk.

Vary your walking speed:

To take your calorie burn to the next level, add fast-paced intervals to that steady, moderate walk. Research shows that including more intense intervals in your workout will help you lose more weight. Intensity is known to benefit your cardiorespiratory system.

Follow a healthy diet:

Exercising more doesn’t really change what or how much you should be eating. If your only goal is to lose weight, you will need to cut back on calories. Keep in mind that both calorie quantity and quality count. Prioritize fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains and cut back on red meats and processed foods.

What to wear for winter walking workouts

You’ll be much happier and more energized if you’re able to stay warm and dry. When you step outside, you should feel slightly chilled but not cold. During your workout, you want to feel warm, not hot and sweaty. Follow these steps to feel comfy from start to finish.

  1. Be smart about fabrics. Leave that old college sweatshirt in your closet and treat yourself to something new and fleecy. High-tech synthetic fabrics make a big difference in comfort; they’re worth the investment. Consider putting on multiple layers so that you can take them off or put more on as needed. You may want an inner layer made of synthetic fabric such as CoolMax to wick sweat away so you stay dry; a middle, or insulating, layer (or two) of light-weight fleece fabric such as Polartec to keep you warm; an outer layer of waterproof, breathable fabric such as Gore-Tex to buffer you from the elements and let sweat escape.
  2. Choose the right socks. Wool socks or winter running socks that are wicking will help keep your feet dry and warm.
  3. Change your kicks. Materials like Gore-Tex, inner and outer layers, and extra grip will make a big difference in keeping your toes toasty and keeping you upright on slippery terrain.
  4. Wear a buff or mask loosely over your nose and mouth to prevent the sting of icy cold air when you inhale. This is especially important if you have asthma or heart problems.
  5. Nordic walking poles will help you keep your balance and help you burn extra calories because your upper body is getting a workout too.


Weather too bad to walk?

It’s not often we cancel walks because of the weather, but if we do there are ways to stay active. Carol Espel, an exercise physiologist and fitness and program director at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa, and Memer Kladis, former assistant director for The National Institute for Fitness and Sport in Indianapolis, have developed a muscle-building “walking” routine that you can do around the house. This routine mimics walking movements and targets walking muscles to help you maintain flexibility and stay in tip-top walking form.

  1. Leg circles (to keep hips flexible and strong): Holding onto a wall for support, lift your right leg out in front of you, bending the knee to form a 90-degree angle. Your thigh should be parallel to the floor, as if you’re marching. Rotating at the hip, circle your leg to the right as far as possible. Don’t move any other part of your body. Slowly lower your leg, then bring it back to the forward position again. Do 10 to 12 circles. Repeat with your left leg. For variety, reverse the leg circles by lifting your legs up and out to the side first, then rotating forward and down.
  2. Hip circles (to keep hips flexible and mobile): Stand about 2 feet from a wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. Lean into the wall, and place both hands on the wall for support. Bend your knees slightly, and circle your hips clockwise, as if you’re a belly dancer. Do 10 to 12 full circles, then rotate your hips counterclockwise.
  3. Heel walks (to strengthen shins and help with heel-toe technique): Walk by balancing on your heels only; your feet should be flexed and your toes pointing toward the ceiling. Do a lap around your living room. For variety, try these with your heels pointing a bit inward or outward—this targets the shin muscles differently.
  4. Toe walks (to strengthen calves and help with heel-toe technique): Walk by balancing on the balls of your feet, heels off the floor. Do a lap around your kitchen or living room. For variety, try these with your toes pointing a bit inward or outward—this targets the calf muscles differently.
  5. Windmills (to keep shoulders flexible and agile): One at a time, circle each arm forward, up, back, and down. Alternate for 10 to 12 windmills with each arm, then reverse the direction.
  6. Step lunges (to strengthen quads): Facing a staircase, place your right foot on the bottom step and your left foot several feet behind you on the floor. Lower your body until your right leg forms a 90-degree angle. Make sure that your right knee stays over your ankle. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position, concentrating on pushing up through your right heel. Do one set of 8 to 12 reps before switching to your left leg.
  7. One-legged curls (to strengthen hamstrings): Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, your right knee bent, and your foot flat on the floor. Place your left foot on a standard-size kid’s ball (12 to 18 inches in diameter). Supporting yourself on your back, arms, and right leg, raise your pelvis a few inches off the floor. Digging your left heel into the ball, slowly curl it toward you. Pause, then slowly push the ball back, resisting the ground as you roll. Do one set of 8 to 12 reps before switching legs.
  8. Pelvic tilts (to strengthen glutes): Lie on your back with your arms at your sides and your heels resting on a low stool, step, or box; your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Tighten your butt, and slowly lift your pelvis as high as is comfortable. Pause, then slowly lower without touching the floor. Repeat. Do 8 to 12 tilts.
  9. Aerobic stepping (for cardio): Try climbing stairs or using the bottom step for a few minutes of step aerobics (pump up the intensity by adding arm movements). A bonus: Just 10 minutes of walking up and down stairs can boost your energy more than 50 mg of caffeine (the amount that’s in about half a cup of coffee), according to research.
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