Shake out the chill and move into spring
Spring has been a very long time coming this year and when unpleasant weather conditions are combined with the end-of-winter doldrums, it can be a rapid recipe for excess weight gain. That’s because, sadly, a lot of people tend to eat more and exercise less during the kind of cold, snowy and rainy weather we’ve had lately.
If you don’t work off the excess calories you eat, you’re not likely to attain and maintain a healthy weight. Physical inactivity also greatly increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease and a host of other conditions. Thankfully, inactivity is an easily modifiable risk factor, especially since one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways to achieve a healthy weight and heart health is to walk more often. Walking doesn’t require any special skills or equipment. It’s safe and it costs nothing to get started.
The American Heart Association recommends we get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. One great way to achieve those 150 minutes is to walk briskly for 30 minutes on at least five days of every week.
That’s easy to say, but how do you motivate yourself when the calendar says spring, but the weather is not at all spring-like? Well, motivation to move can come in different ways for different people.
Some find mobile devices, like iPods, iPads, iPhones or other cell phones motivate them. If you have access to one of these electronics, you can easily find and download free motivational applications or videos. Or you can track your progress using one of the new electronic fitness bands, which you wear like a wristwatch. Yet, even though they can be very motivational for some, a lot of us can’t afford fancy electronics, and nobody really needs to purchase anything to start moving. You just need to figure out exactly what will get, and keep, you motivated.
You can find many free and fun motivational resources on the ChooseMyPlate.gov website, including the free online tracking tool called the SuperTracker. The SuperTracker lets you plan, analyze, and track your diet and physical activity. It can help you figure out what and how much to eat; track the foods you do eat, the physical activities you do, and your weight. It’s personalized and can also help you with goal setting. It provides virtual coaching and lets you journal about your progress if you think that will help you stay motivated to move more.
Another way to stay motivated is to make sure you’re walking in a pair of comfortable walking or running shoes. If your feet feel good in your shoes, you’ll be more likely to slip them on more often and walk more.
If you start to suffer from boredom, try out different walking routes. You can find some safe local areas to walk or hike listed at www.tourchautauqua.com/Trails-and-Parks.aspx, or you might do a little more research and consider joining the fun at a 5K run. A 5K run is only 3.1 miles and most are open to anyone who wants to participate, including beginners and those who simply want to walk slowly with friends.
However, you don’t have to walk outdoors. When the weather is miserable, you might want to look for indoor options. Many schools welcome walkers after hours. Check to see if yours is one of them. If not, walk in your local mall or in a super store. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 150 pound person who walks upstairs for one minute burns around 10 calories. If they rode in an elevator instead, they’d burn only 1.5 calories. Obviously, every little movement can make a big difference. So walk. Climb stairs. Don’t be tempted to ride.
For those of us who still can’t seem to lift ourselves up off the couch, friends or family members can be very motivational. Don’t forget, childhood obesity is at an all-time high, so think about including children in your activities. You’ll be doing them a favor and they will likely get you moving more. The point is, surround yourself with people who like to move and will encourage you to join them, even if it’s just for a walk around the block. If you can find a friend to walk with you they’ll probably make it more likely you’ll achieve your walking goals.
If you can’t find a motivated friend or family member and find yourself walking alone more often than not, try other types of motivation. For instance, lots of people enjoy listening to music while they walk. If you’re one of them, take a little time and put together a playlist that makes you feel like moving. If you’re not sure where to begin, seek recommendations from music store staff or search online music sources for the types of music that make most people want to move.
You can even walk in your house. Run up and down the stairs or simply get up and walk around the house, march in place, or dance around when commercials come on during your favorite TV shows. If you want an added benefit, in addition to burning calories, deep clean your house. Most serious house cleaning tasks involve a lot of standing, walking, bending and squatting. Your house will be spotless and you’ll get a great workout.
So, while it’s true that miserable weather may make you feel blue, more likely to look lovingly at comfort foods, and less likely to reach for your sneakers, motivation to move can come in different ways for different people. It’s time to figure out what works for you and for those you care about.
While you ponder that, did you know that if you are low income and find yourself struggling to put food on the table, you may be eligible for New York State Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program? SNAP provides nutrition assistance for low-income people to help buy nutritious food for a better diet. To find out more about SNAP benefit eligibility call 1-800-342-3009 or apply online for SNAP benefits at www.mybenefits.ny.gov/. You’ll find the U.S. Department of Agriculture is putting healthy food within everyone’s reach.
So, get up off the couch, throw some healthy ingredients in a slow cooker or toss together some tasty dark leafy greens in a salad bowl, refrigerate it, and then head off to build a healthy appetite.
Patty Hammond leads Family and Consumer Science Programs at Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County. Her column is published on the first Sunday of each month. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org