12 11 inactivity winter acitvity workout burn caloriesGetting the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week isn’t easy...

...especially in the cold winter months. Here's why you need to get moving, and how to do it this season.

150 minutes. It’s a movie. A shopping trip, a few drinks after work, your two-year-old’s daily nap. It’s also more physical activity than most Canadians get in a week.

According to Mary Duggan, the manager of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) in Ottawa, only 15 percent of Canadians are getting their recommended dose of activity per week. And it’s killing us. “Lack of adequate physical activity can increase the risk of chronic diseases, like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity and certain types of cancers,” Duggan explains. “And inactivity has reached epidemic proportions.”

CSEP is the principal body for physical activity, health and fitness research and personal training in Canada and creates The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines by compiling the recommendations of respected doctors, academics, and physical education professionals. These guidelines state that “to achieve health benefits, adults 18 to 64 should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.” Moderate to vigorous activity can be anything from going to the gym or taking a jog, to raking leaves, to having fun with your kids on the weekend.

Seems like a walk in the park. Literally. So what’s holding us back?

THE TIME FACTOR

In today’s all or nothing world, people seem to feel that if there isn’t time to go all out, then there isn’t time to be physically active. However, studies show that small bouts of physical activity can be just as effective as long, intense sessions.

Natasha Weber, B.Sc., PT, registered physiotherapist, and owner of Fusion Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre in Stouffville, Ont., sees casualties of the inactivity epidemic first hand. “These days, it seems that people are working longer hours in sedentary jobs and many spend up to two hours per day commuting, which doesn’t leave them much time to exercise during the work week,” Weber explains. “This has lead to the “weekend warrior” – someone who only gets a chance to exercise or take part in physical activity on the weekend. But because these “weekend warrior” types take part in activity so infrequently (often only once a week or less), they are often more prone to injury because of decreased cardiovascular fitness, poor flexibility and lack of adequate muscle tone.”

As a physiotherapist, Weber’s role is to educate patients on the importance of getting regular physical activity to keep the body healthy, limber and responsive and to prevent injury. “As a busy mom of three who also runs her own business, I can definitely appreciate how difficult it can be to find the time to be active! However, it is important for people to carve out 20 to 25 minutes of their day and devote this time to physical activity. Whether that means getting up half an hour earlier to work out, exercising at lunch time or doing something active after dinner, it is vital to put your physical health first!”

SEASONALLY AFFECTED

With Canada’s cottage culture and gorgeous outdoors, planning a swim, hike, walk, or run is a piece of cake in the summer months. But what about during the dark winter months when it’s all too easy to curl up in front of the TV and stay sedentary until spring?

Jason Ciurluini BA, B.Ed., M.Ed., personal trainer, and owner of Toronto’s popular DRGN Fitness Studio has some news that may surprise you. “The fall and winter months are logically the best time of the year for being physical in order to achieve the most effective results,” he explains. “By taking advantage of the cool weather, we are able to exercise at a higher heart rate and therefore can go harder and essentially be more effective with our time. This is versus the heat of the summer months, which is very taxing on the body during exercise so we tend to ‘gas out earlier’, cutting activities or workouts short.” Ciurluini encourages his client to run, jog, ride, ski, and skate – even a brisk walk through the snow can be a great cardiovascular workout. “Stick to groomed trails,” Ciurluini advises. “Stay away from ice and steep hills, and purchase the proper gear for the winter elements (proper winter footwear, socks, base layers, arm warmers, gloves, headwear and sunglasses to avoid the snow glare).”

JUST DO IT!

Indulge in indoor pursuits this winter – take a yoga class, go to the gym, take a dance class – even housework can be a great way to inject a little activity into a snowy Sunday afternoon. But don’t stop there – embrace the season, and let it help, not hinder, your physical activity. Walk in the woods. Toboggan. Put away the snow blower and break out the trusty shovel. Let the winter be your wonderland. That’s bound to put a spring in your step!