By Nadia Sheikh
Senior, English Major
When the temperature drops to 60 degrees and out come the boots and beanies, you know that Florida winter has arrived. Let’s be honest, we’ve got a sorry excuse for a “cold” season, but a green winter has its perks. Instead of shoveling snow or scurrying into the gym to get some exercise, Floridians can enjoy the crisp outdoors.
Maybe you’re a beach baby and can’t stand a little chill, or maybe winter is a time when you’d rather not break a sweat for once, but getting up and out to exercise at this time of year has its advantages. While regular exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle during all times of year, the benefits are particularly relevant to wintertime.
- Exercise is one of the best ways to warm up on a cold day. Working out in cooler weather can also help you burn more calories because your body works harder to stay warm.
- Morning workouts in the cold help you to wake up, increase your alertness, and improve your circulation throughout the day.
- Winter is the time when coughs and sneezes run rampant, but exercise helps to boost and maintain a healthy immune system. With exams and the end of the semester approaching, a little cold can be a huge hindrance.
- There’s a great deal of stress that goes along with those exams, and exercise is a perfect, healthy outlet.
- Lastly, the holiday season is full of family and finger-licking food, but that doesn’t always mean healthy food. Enjoy the many treats, and stay balanced with regular exercise.
The idea of working out can seem laborious and awful, but it’s all about how you decide to stay fit. With cooler weather, there are so many options for exercise.
- Running: Gainesville is a great city for running, with plenty of sidewalks and great trails. Loblolly North is just a half a mile from campus, connecting NW 8th Avenue and NW 16th Avenue with a beautiful, shaded boardwalk. Lake Alice is also a great location for running that is scenic and on campus.
- Biking: Plenty of these trails are great for biking, as well, especially in Paynes Prairie. There are multiple trails, including the 16-mile paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail.
- Play: Embrace your inner child when the weather cools down, and play outside again. There are plenty of fields, like Hume and Flavet, as well as recreation complexes like Broward and Southwest, with facilities for indoor and outdoor soccer, basketball, volleyball, hockey, Frisbee, and skateboarding.
- Walk to class: This is the time of year when you won’t have to show up to class sweaty, so opt for a walk!
Most importantly, workouts don’t have to be long! Nicholas Arjoon, senior nutrition major, explains, “Working out for just 20 minutes on 5 days out of the week is more effective than having one long workout each week.” There’s no need to spend hours in the gym or running miles and miles – just get out and sweat for a while!
Workouts in winter may be cooler and more tolerable, but there are several concerns to stay aware of when the temperature drops.
- While Florida winters tend to be mild, some days can be very chilly and require the right workout gear. Invest in long sleeves, light sweaters, or ColdGear Under Armour. Sweatpants or long spandex can keep leg muscles warm, but it is also essential to wear the right kind of socks to be sure feet and toes get enough blood circulation. Try a brand of compression socks, like Recovery Sox or Oxysox.
- During a workout, the speed of your tunes can be essential to your work rate and heart rate, so pick something with a speed of 145 to 160 beats per minute.
- In cold weather, muscles need extra time to warm up and extra stretching. Be sure to incorporate a good warm up to raise your heart rate, and be sure to stretch after your muscles have gotten warmer to ensure that you don’t injure yourself.
- Ginger can help relieve joint pain and stiffness that comes with winter exercise, so try mixing powdered ginger into lemonade or steeping slices of fresh ginger in tea. You can also pick up a ginger supplement at your local pharmacy.
Even if you have never been a gym rat or a fitness enthusiast, winter is an ideal time to take advantage of Florida’s great weather and get outside to exercise. Set small goals for yourself, even if those goals are only to do some kind of activity every day. This winter, you can make big gains without big pains!