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Fight the winter blues with exercise

Andrea Stockton, staff writer
Find out how keeping active in the cold winter months can help burn calories and increase your energy.

A simple walk outside can increase your energy
A simple walk outside can increase your energy

The winter season has just begun and some people find it hard to get motivated and exercise during the frosty months. But health specialists say, rather than avoid it, why not embrace it?

“Some people get hung up on exercising outside in the cold. They're thinking they don't want to go outside in the cold, it's warm and cozy at home and they don't want to go out. And one of the best things to do is get some warm winter wear,” says Sarah Heipel, Holistic Fitness Coach at Georgian Triangle in the town of Blue Mountain.

Heipel says investing in some warm hats, mitts and boots can go a long way. “Because winter is a long season and you'll use these things over and over, it's totally worth it.”

Experts recommend dressing like it's 10°C warmer than it actually is outside if you plan to exercise during the winter. It's important to dress in layers because you're bound to warm up once you start moving.

“And the thing is, if you over dress you're going to sweat so much more. You're going to lose a lot of minerals as you go, you're going to be more exhausted. It will feel like you don't have the energy, but really it's just that you're overheating,” says Heipel.

Layering up before heading outside, can create more body heat than usual, which in turn causes people to sweat. So staying hydrated while being active outdoors is also essential.

“It's the thing that we forget in the winter-- because we're not thinking the sun is going to be beaming down on us...So having water with us is very important,” explains Heipel.

Snowshoeing is one of the best calorie burners during the winter season
Snowshoeing is one of the best calorie burners during the winter season

Several Canadians suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD as the winter months settle in and getting active in the fresh air is one way to battle the impacts of the disease.

“It feels natural,” says Heipel. “Exercising outside also gives us better oxygen, there's the fresh air and it makes us feel better. It's more of a work out when we're outside too because there's not a machine to lean on. It's just a whole lot better in terms of our muscles.”

Another symptom of SAD is sunlight deficiency and by being outside, people are more likely to get a healthy helping of Vitamin D.

Heipel says snowshoeing, cross country skiing and even just walking with a group of friends are some great ways to burn calories, build muscle and help the winter months pass by.

“There's a soul factor that you have to take into account when we're outside, we're meant to be outside. Maybe not every minute of the day, but it feels good to be outside and it does something. Not just for your body and for your fitness, but on a mental level, you feel better once you've been outside.”

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