December 27, 2021
by Tami Meehan, PT, DPT

As the weather turns colder and we nestle in for the long Minnesota winter, we tend to push aside our warm weather healthy habits of being active and exercising. In the winter, we might need to make a more conscious effort to be active as we may not feel as inspired.

Movement creates a snowball effect. Start small and increase your movement as you go. For many people, the more they move, the better they feel. Here’s how you can put some more movement into your day!   

First, let’s talk about the difference between physical activity and exercise. These terms are often confused for one another. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, physical activity is any movement carried out by the muscles that require energy. In other words, physical activity is any movement a person does.  Physical activity can include walking the stairs, general labor, gardening, housework, shopping or other activities done throughout the day that involve movement.

Exercise is any planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movement that is intended to improve or maintain physical fitness. Exercise is a form of physical activity. There are two key types of exercise:

  1. Aerobic Exercise – also knowns as cardiovascular exercise involves performing a sustained activity that raises your breathing and heart rate.  Examples include running, biking and swimming.
  2. Strength Training – also known as resistance exercise, improves muscle tone, endurance and strength, burns calories and can boost your metabolism. Exercises can be performed on machines, with free weights or body weight.

Now, let’s discuss recommendations for physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise physical activity and at least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.  

Start with small amounts, about 5 to 10 minutes a day if you haven’t been doing any activity and work your way up from there.  You can break up exercise time into smaller portions by performing 30 minutes, five days per week, to meet your goal of 150 minutes total.

Find activities you like to do. If you love swimming, our region has several indoor pools. Indoor walking at local malls and community centers are other great options. You may make some new friends in the process.

However, if you find the idea of exercise overwhelming, it is helpful to know that being physically active can also improve your health and maintain your weight. Everyday physical activities such as housework or walking can still count toward the recommended amount of weekly physical activity.  If you are able, look at ways to get outside and enjoy our winter by sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, skating, hiking or playing with your children or grandchildren.

You can increase your physical activity by parking farther away from building entrances, taking the stairs rather than the elevator or riding a stationary bike while watching television. To add some strength training, try doing bicep curls, sit-ups, push-ups and squats while binge watching! 

Keep moving and the health benefits will snowball.