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Women’s heart health: Tips for staying active in the winter

Amanda Levchuk, FNP

When winter creeps in and the days get shorter and colder, it can be hard to find the motivation to exercise. However, staying active year round is vital to our health.

Exercise strengthens heart muscles, improves circulation, lowers cholesterol, and keeps stress at bay. All of these things reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease—the leading cause of death for women and men alike. Prioritizing physical fitness is one of the most important choices you can make.

So what can you do to keep moving when the couch is calling? Here are some tips:

Tip #1: Dress for the weather.

There’s an old Scandinavian saying, “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.” If you dress correctly, weather doesn’t have to get in your way. For most folks in the Northwest, this means investing in a good raincoat, boots, and clothing you can layer. Having the freedom to peel off items if you get too hot can be the difference between finishing your activity and giving up.

Tip #2: Wear a pedometer.

When it gets chilly, a step tracker can be the motivation you need to walk instead of drive, take the stairs rather than the elevator, or simply park the car further away. Another tech-based option? Try a phone fitness app that delivers a new workout every day.

Tip #3: Use a calorie tracker.

During the winter, people tend to eat richer, heavier foods, which can pack on pounds. Tracking calories encourages you to balance that food with exercise and make healthier meal choices.

Tip #4: Spend some time in front of a light box.

Seasonal depression can destroy a person’s motivation to exercise. Light therapy can get your body going again.

Tip #5: Find something you love to do.

As a fellow mom, I really relate to parents who don’t have time to go to the gym and recommend finding ways to be active as a family instead. In my house we have dance parties, do exercise videos, and go on walks together. If you love what you’re doing and the people you’re doing it with, you’re more likely to stick with it.

Tip #6: Embrace the season.

Take advantage of winter snowfalls and do some skiing or snowshoeing. Walk around the mall and enjoy the holiday decorations. Go hiking in the rain. Warm up in a hot yoga class. Each season offers its own unique options for staying fit—enjoy them!

Finally, if you have a way you love to stay active in the winter, consider asking a friend or family member to participate with you. The more we develop and grow a culture of fitness within our community, the healthier we’ll all be.

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Amanda Levchuk is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who enjoys working with patients to achieve their unique health goals. She is passionate about preventative medicine and women’s health.