Exercise is vital – it promotes cardiovascular health, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, improves muscle tone, lowers the risk of dementia and boosts mood. Research has shown that people who exercise in their later years improve the health of their bodies and minds. A sound exercise program requires balancing all three types of exercise (flexibility, cardio and strength) to get the most benefits for your efforts.
Three benefits of exercise
Be sure to warm up and stretch before you work out and always stretch after exercise. Stretching can improve blood circulation and help prevent injuries. When you stretch, don’t bounce; instead, move gently through the stretch. You should only feel a gentle pull on your muscles. If it hurts slow down and work up to a full stretch.
Cardio gets the heart pumping, and that makes it stronger. Start with a daily 10-minute walk or swim a lap around the pool. Once you get the hang of it, go for longer walks or swim more laps.
Strength training is made up of simple exercises that help keep your muscles strong. Arm presses, bicep curls, lunges, and squats can help you build muscle, improve balance and reduce your risk for falls. Before you start any exercise plan, always check with your doctor. They may have recommendations specific to your health condition.
Here in Monterey County, we have a warmer climate, even in the winter. But the days are shorter, the nights are colder, and we do get our share of rain! Here are seven tips for staying active in the winter.
1. Warm up your muscles
Warming up before a workout is always a good idea, and warm-ups are especially important during the winter months. Even though our core temperature is a constant 98.6 degrees, our muscles, tendons and ligaments get colder when the weather is cold. To reduce the risk of injury, start your workout with light exercise.
2. Be ready for rain
We get our share of rain during the winter months, so be prepared when you head out for a walk. Wear shoes that offer good traction, so you’ll be less likely to lose your footing on slick sidewalks. If rain is forecast, wear a raincoat, and take an umbrella, or bring a folding poncho you can keep in your pocket just in case.
3. Stay hydrated
Even though the need to drink water is emphasized more during the summer, we can still get dehydrated during the winter. As we get older, we’re more prone to dehydration, and the risks can be more serious. Always remember to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
4. Dress in layers
It’s hard to know how warm your clothing needs to be before leaving for a walk. You’ll probably get warmer once you’ve been moving for a while, but you never know when the wind might pick up. Even if you feel fine without a coat, carry a coat just in case. Your first layer should be made of a material (not cotton) that wicks sweat off your skin.
5. Stay visible
Wintertime means less daylight and walking in the early morning or evening can be dangerous due to the dim light or darkness. Motorists might not see you, especially if you wear dark clothing. If you can’t plan your walks during daylight hours, put reflective tape on your clothing (back and front), or wear a reflective vest. It also helps to wear light-colored clothing.
6. Bring a friend
Talking with a friend while exercising can make an otherwise dreary winter day more enjoyable. Also, walking with a friend will make you more visible to motorists.
7. Try walking poles
Consider bringing walking poles on your next walk. Available through fitness and sporting goods retailers, they can aid with balance and help you burn more calories.
Aspire Health Plan members don’t forget to take advantage of all of the offerings available through our fitness benefit. Options include low-cost annual fitness center memberships, digital workout videos Stay Fit Kits, daily live workout videos and home fitness kits. Visit Silver&Fit® to get started and contact Member Services at (855) 570-1600 (TTY 711) if you have any questions.