Winter exercise to excise your holiday excessWinter is the season when most people put on weight. We don’t exercise much, using the cold weather as an excuse, and we eat a lot thanks to Christmas, New Year’s and the upcoming Lunar New Year’s holiday. A survey has shown that the average weight of healthy people increases in winter, while the blood-sugar level of diabetics also rises.
It’s true that it is not so safe to exercise vigorously in winter, because as the body becomes stiffer due to the cold weather, there is a heightened risk of physical injury. Nevertheless, some form of exercise is a must in winter as the body’s biorhythms want us to accumulate fat ― most animals gain body fat to survive this season when food is scarce.
Another problem from overeating and a lack of exercise is the accelerated onset of obesity. This can lead to poor blood circulation, resulting in edema in the hands and feet. If your hands and feet are swollen, you don’t want to move because you feel heavy, creating a vicious circle whereby the fat get fatter.
The problem is that fat that accumulates in winter stays inside the body if it is not used up. And if the increased weight is maintained over six months, it becomes harder to lose. Therefore, if you are gaining weight you should try to burn it off.
Winter is actually a good season to lose weight. “If the weather gets cold, a lot of energy is consumed in order to maintain the body’s temperature,” said John Yang, a doctor in the Sports Medical Center at Ilsan Paik Hospital. “Just by wearing a thin shirt, the amount of consumed energy rises a lot.” Therefore, exercising in the cold helps in losing weight.
But how do you reduce physical injury from exercising in winter, while optimizing the benefits ?
First, you need to loosen up stiff muscles and joints. When it’s cold, joints as well as muscles get stiff, reducing the effect of exercise. Lactic acid, a product of muscle fatigue, also accumulates in the body, resulting in low energy consumption and a quick feeling of tiredness. Thus, you need to focus on stretching. “Stretching eases muscles and stimulates blood circulation and the metabolism,” said Dr. Park Won-ha of the Sports Medicine Clinic at Samsung Medical Center. “It reduces muscle fatigue and eases their tension so as to prevent possible injury.”
If muscle and joints move freely, body fat is burned up more easily. In fact, if two people walk the same distance, the person with the looser muscles consumes more energy than the person with a stiffer body.
Any edema build up can be removed by a two-week exercise regime involving the following. First you must stretch your body. This raises the body temperature and loosens muscles. Next, run on the spot for three minutes, raising your thighs high, or use a skipping rope. After loosening the muscles, try a small weights workout and then take a 30-minute walk or jog outside.
However, before going outside, check the sensory temperature rather than the air temperature. The stronger the wind, the more heat one loses. If the wind is as fast as 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) per hour at 10 degrees centigrade (50 Fahrenheit), the sensory temperature is minus 13 degrees centigrade. But if the wind speed is 30 kilometers per hour, the sensory temperature drops to minus 20 degrees centigrade.
Secondly, try to avoid slopes such as riverbanks or mountainsides, because of the danger of falling on frozen ground which could cause serious injury.
A word of warning: people with high blood pressure or diabetes patients should avoid outside exercise, because of the dangers of a heart attack. Also be careful when stopping your exercise session. Don’t stop all of a sudden after running. Slow down gently to a walk and move your arms regularly in order to help blood circulate back to the heart.
How to stretch
1. Warm up your body to loosen muscles.
2. Move slowly.
3. Don't stop breathing while moving.
4. Maintain the right amount of muscle stimulation when stretching (pause for 10 to 20 seconds in each extended position).
5. Exercise from the smaller joints first moving to the larger ones (or joints far from the heart to those closer to heart).
6. If you feel muscular pain, take a break for a few days.
Source: Sport Medicine Clinic at Samsung Medical Center
Who shouldn’t exercise outside in winter?
1. People with high blood pressure.
2. Diabetes patients with complications from the disease such as retinopathy or foot ulcers.
3. People suffering from degenerative joint disease or rheumatism.
4. People with heart disease or a family history of smoking, high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol.
5. People who are older than 65 and who seldom exercise.
6. People who have just started exercising.
7. People suffering serious abdominal obesity with a waist bigger than 90 centimeters (35.4 inches) for a man and 80 centimeters for a woman.
by Ko Jong-kwan
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