We are all familiar with Chicago’s notorious winters – the snow, the ice and sub-zero temperatures. And, we have all used winter as a reason to hibernate and throw our good health habits to the wind – literally. But research says that we gain more pounds during the winter than any other time of the year. So this winter, instead of racking up the excuses and the pounds, I urge all Chicagoans to participate, not hibernate.
Here’s the good news: exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be fun and give you great health benefits. A new report from the National Institutes of Health found that people who exercised lived an average of 4.5 more years. And this benefit was seen in people who were active for as little as 30 minutes a day. Being active means you live longer, feel better and help prevent diabetes, some cancers and heart disease.
Getting exercise doesn’t mean you have to be slave to the gym. In fact, there are a lot of fun ways you can work movement into your day without setting aside a lot of time. Many of us spend eight or more hours at work, which shouldn’t be an excuse for not fitting in physical activity. You can stay active at work in many ways. Take the stairs. Stand up and walk while you’re on the phone. Take a walk with your co-workers during lunch. If you work downtown, bundle up and take in the breathtaking lights and decorations on Michigan Avenue during the winter months.
Have I inspired you to get up and moving yet? Need more ideas? Luckily, there are plenty of options to be physically active indoors and outdoors in our city – even as the temperature drops. In fact, this week, The Coca-Cola Company, Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Park District kicked off the Park Families Wellness Initiative. The $3 million grant will provide physical activity classes and nutrition education in 60 park and community facilities around the city. As part of the program, you can also take boot camp fitness classes taught by real U.S. Veterans through “Troops for Fitness.” I watched one of these great classes at the kick-off event at Fosco Park a few days ago and I can’t wait to take one myself (I hope you will too)!
There are other indoor options to help escape the biting winds. Grab some friends and go dancing downtown one night. Try out a new class – check out Living Social or Groupon for discounts on yoga or spin classes. I love the SPIN classes at TFC – they really get your heart rate going! Or multitask during holiday grocery shopping trips, do a few extra laps around the grocery store as your cart fills up.
The benefits of exercise are too good to pass up. Getting regular physical activity can help you reduce stress, increase energy, lose weight and feel better about your appearance. There are 1,440 minutes in a day and all you need is 30 minutes for exercise. That’s only two percent of your entire day. Chicagoans, let’s use our two percent to get active this winter. See you out there!
Norma Rixter is a certified nutritionist, trainer and a Premier Lifestyle Wellness Coach for Women. She consults for food and beverage companies, including The Coca-Cola Company, and is the author of “Norma Can COOK!” a collection of 30-minute, healthy recipes.