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6 Ways to Stay Active & Avoid Hibernation

Q: I'm sick — should I still exercise?

A: If your symptoms are above the neck, like a head cold, it's generally fine to work out, but you may need to reduce the length or intensity of your exercise session. Listen to your body — if you feel crummy, taking a day off may do you more good than pushing through a workout.

Exercise is generally not recommended if you have a fever, achy muscles, excessive fatigue, or any below-the-neck symptoms such as chest congestion or nausea. When in doubt, err on the side of caution — and check with your health care provider.

by Beth Shepard, M.S., ACE-CPT, ACSM-RCEP, Wellcoaches Certified Wellness Coach

This is the time of year when many animals pack on the pounds — storing food as fat to prepare for hibernation. With the onset of cooler autumn weather and darker days, many people do the same thing — unintentionally becoming less active and eating more over the holidays. But unlike bears, groundhogs and hamsters, people don't burn off the stored fat as they sleep — and therein lies the problem.

If you normally fall prey to hibernation behaviors when November arrives, do something different this year. Choose to stay active, eat mindfully, and greet the new year feeling your best.

  1. Liven It Up
    We're all creatures of habit; it's easy to get stuck doing the same things week after week. But boredom puts you at risk for losing interest in your exercise program. To keep things fresh, try a new fitness activity or sport this season. Fall is a great time to cross-train, go geocaching, or get ready for ski season. Your body and mind will both benefit from a little variety.
  2. Join in the Fun
    Signing up for a fitness class, a training group, or running club is a terrific way to add fun and variety to your exercise routine — and will assist you in getting out the door when you'd rather cozy up to the fire. Working out with a group offers social support and accountability — which are helpful when you're dealing with shorter days and inclement weather. Just knowing that someone is expecting you to show up makes it far more likely that you will.
  3. Indoor Ideas
    Feel like staying inside, but still want to work up a sweat? Be resourceful. If you love to run, head to the gym and try the treadmill, elliptical, or stair climber — or acquire a piece of home exercise equipment. If you're a cyclist, convert your outdoor bike to a stationary model with a wind trainer. Visit your local pool to swim laps or train with a U.S. Masters swim club. Borrow fitness DVDs from your local library, or swap with your friends. Set up a circuit training workout at home, alternating cardio and strength exercises — using dumbbells, bands, or body weight and a jump rope, stairs, or even jogging in place.
  4. Outdoor Chores
    Autumn brings with it a list of calorie-busting chores — like raking leaves, cleaning gutters, and chopping wood. Put some extra effort into housework and yard work, and you'll build muscular and cardiovascular fitness while checking off your to-do list.
  5. Active Traditions
    The abundance of holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year's doesn't have to be all about feasts, alcohol and sweet treats. Why not add to your celebrations by adopting new, physically active traditions? Take your family for an extended walk on Thanksgiving morning or after dinner. Go dancing or ice skating. Host a neighborhood caroling party. Make merry by participating in a local jingle bell fun run. Ring in the New Year by cross-country skiing or snowboarding.
  6. Embrace the Season
    Do falling leaves prompt you to stay indoors until spring blossoms arrive? If so, you may be missing out on seasonal activities you might learn to love — if you gave them a chance. You can't change the weather, so dress for it and get out there. Sample a sport or activity you've always wanted to try. With so many to choose from, there's bound to be a cold weather pastime that brings a smile to your face. And here's the bonus— you'll get the satisfaction of knowing you're staying active and healthy during a time of year when many people are settling in for a long winter's nap.