It’s officially fall and the colder weather is already here. Many of us stay active in the summer months by going for walks, swimming, running outside, gardening, or engaging in other outdoor activities. The winter months can provide a challenge for staying active, as it’s often cold outdoors and we can’t do a lot of the things we enjoy in the summer.
As a result of this, we often become much more sedentary, spending more time indoors watching television (it is football season after all) and snacking. This can lead to weight gain, depressed mood, and an overall decrease in your well-being. You may not realize this, but being sedentary, spending more time at home, and decreasing your activity level can not only affect your overall mood, but it can also increase your level of anxiety (Otto & Smits, 2011).
For those of you with a year-long gym membership, continuing to be active likely won’t be a problem. But if you’re not a gym rat or you can’t afford to pay for a gym membership all year round, we’ve compiled some additional ways you can stay active this year!
Join an Active Team or Club
Organized sports don’t exist exclusively for children; there are many adult sports and activity leagues, especially in big cities. Often these are recreational leagues that require little to no prior experience or expertise. Joining something like this may give you an opportunity to learn a new skill, meet some new people, and stay active over the summer! Here are some local (Hamilton) leagues that I found with a quick Google search:
- Soccer World Hamilton: Offering soccer, baseball, football, and drop-ins
- Wentworth Arenas: Offering soccer and hockey
- Average Joe Sports: Offering co-ed recreational basketball, dodgeball, flag football, floor hockey, soccer, softball, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, and youth sports
- City of Hamilton: Information on badminton, swimming, volleyball, and basketball leagues
- Sport & Social Club: Offering floor hockey, basketball, curling, dodgeball, fitness classes, flag football, hockey, soccer, softball, tennis, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, and water polo
Organized sports can sometimes be expensive, but by doing a search in your home town you may find some drop-in leagues available as well.
Go Swimming Indoors/Aquafit
Swimming is a fantastic aerobic exercise, and most cities have an indoor pool that offers lane swimming, classes, and free swim. This is something you can do on your own or with the whole family! The city of Hamilton has a list of local pools that you can check out by clicking here.
Most pools have the option to get a membership for the year or season, or pay per visit, decreasing the overall cost to you.
Attend a Yoga Class
Yoga is more than just meditation and stretching. For those of you who have never done yoga, it can be an intense workout and can help you with strength, flexibility, and the connection between body and mind.
Kayleen holds regular drop-in yoga classes in Hamilton, and we periodically hold yoga-therapy groups. There are also a number of other yoga services in Hamilton, and you can do your own yoga at home using YouTube!
Workout in Your Home
You have to have expensive equipment or a lot of space to do your own aerobic workouts at home. You can work up a sweat and build muscle by doing bodyweight workouts or using household items as weights, such as jugs of water, water bottles filled with sand or rice, cans, etc.
If you’re not sure where to start, HIIT workouts are a great start as they are short but high intensity, so they get your heart rate up and really make you sweat! You can also make your own workout plans. Some exercises you can do that require no equipment include:
- Jumping jacks
- Push ups
- Sit ups
- Mountain climbers
There is really an endless list! There are many resources online where you can find pre-made workout plans or even fitness videos on YouTube. Make sure that you check with your doctor first to ensure that you can engage in any exercises you’re unfamiliar with.
Winter can suck, but there are often really beautiful sights to see in the winter time. If the weather isn’t too bad, you can go for a walk outside on a trail or in your neighbourhood. You can also look into outdoor skating rinks in your area, or go to a lake or pond near your home that has been cleared to be safe for skating on. These can be fun family activities, or things you can do on your own!
If it’s not too cold or icy, you can even take elements of your home workout outside, and do some running, skipping, or your entire workout in the backyard. You can also try out some fun winter sports, such as snow shoeing, downhill, or cross-country skiing!
Get a Gym Membership
The idea of going to the gym can be daunting, and sometimes the price can be an even bigger deterrent. But a $50/month gym membership at a fancy gym isn’t your only option. There are many smaller gyms around that offer cheaper monthly fees, such as Planet Fitness and Fit4Less, or discounted rates based on your income such as at the YMCA.
Not only that, but many gyms have an option to put your membership on hold or only have it for certain times in the year, so that you can use it in the winter and put it on hold in the summer. The advantage to going to a gym is that:
- It gets you out of the house
- You have access to expensive equipment you may not have at home
- You can often attend classes
- Some offer free orientations to help you get acquainted
- You have an opportunity to be social
My last tidbit of information or advice is to practice gratitude. The idea that winter sucks can really get us down and cause us to lose motivation and not put in the effort to stay active. Practicing gratitude for family, friends, our environment, and where we live can help us move in the direction of more positive health. Rather than seeing winter as a gloomy time where you can’t go outside and nothing gets done, think of it as an opportunity to try new things. Remind yourself of how lucky we are to live in this beautiful country, and think of all of the positive aspects of winter, such as Christmas time, more time with family, fuzzy warm sweaters, and football season!
Otto, M., & Smits, J. A. (2011). Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being. Oxford University Press.