Art Aiello is a writer and editor based in Waukesha, WI.
The trouble with staying active in the wintertime is — quite frankly — dealing with winter weather. Cold temperatures and snowy weather can make it hard to get motivated to go outside. Motivation aside, though, snow and ice can make outdoor activities seem like an obstacle course for those with limited mobility. It’s no fun to perform an activity if you’re constantly afraid of slipping and falling. So what can you do to stay active during the wintertime, either within the safety of your own home or at another indoor venue?
One obvious option is to join a gym. Not only will it give you access to professional fitness equipment — such as treadmills, on which you can safely walk at your own pace while watching live TV or a movie — but many gyms offer fitness classes geared toward members of all fitness and activity levels. Classes are a great way to stay active and make friends.
Many gyms also provide access to personal trainers and physical therapists, albeit often for an additional fee. A personal trainer can tailor a workout program to meet your specific fitness goals and accommodate any mobility limitations you might have.
Finally, there are several nationwide fitness chains, such as Anytime Fitness, that provide 24/7/365 access for members. A simple key fob or access card will let you into the gym whenever you want — day or night. So whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, you can work out on your own schedule. You can also arrange to meet a personal trainer or, if you have a caregiver, get him or her to work out with you.
If a gym membership isn’t in the offing, consider walking in your local indoor mall. In recent years, mall walking as become increasingly popular, to the point that many malls will offer information about routes of different lengths throughout the mall and will open their doors early — before stores open — to accommodate mall walkers. Malls also tend to be on public transportation routes, making it easier for those who cannot drive themselves to get there for their workout. They are also safer than walking outdoors — not only because they are indoors and climate-controlled but because they have their own in-house security teams. Finally, like with gym classes, mall walking is a very social activity. Not only can you meet up with your friends or bring your caregiver with you, but you also have the chance to make new friends. To find out if your local mall already has a mall walking program, contact their local management team. If they don’t, offer to start one. Chances are mall management will welcome the opportunity.
Other public spaces make great places to stay active in the wintertime, as well. Public museums not only occupy large indoor spaces with plenty of room for walking, but they give you the opportunity to expand your horizons while you’re doing it.
If you live near an indoor botanical garden — like the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA, or the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory in Milwaukee, WI — you might find yourself forgetting that it’s winter altogether. Not only are gardens like these climate-controlled year-round, with plenty of space to walk at your own pace and see some amazing plants and flowers, but several offer classes to help you either learn about exotic plants or improve your own green thumb. Many public spaces offer discounts to seniors and veterans, with some even providing free admission to residents on designated dates, so make sure to call ahead ask about any offers.
But what if you’re housebound most of the time and unable to get out to even these indoor spaces? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to stay active. Believe it or not, many modern video game systems offer fitness programs that you can do in your own home at your own pace. It’s a phenomenon called “exergaming.” Microsoft’s Xbox One with Kinect has several games — from Sports Rivals, which has bowling and tennis, to Just Dance to Zumba, to name a few — that you can play in the comfort of your own home. The Kinect device “sees” you in front of the video game console so that the game can be truly interactive, and it can even accept voice commands, making it that much easier for you to operate the gaming console. Other systems, like Sony’s Playstation with the Playstation Move motion controller, can give you a similar experience.
What makes this even more enjoyable? Your family, friends and caregivers will likely want to get involved — especially those grandchildren who tend to spend a great deal of time playing video games. Even better — your younger relatives or grandchildren will probably enjoy helping you get the system set up and shopping with you for fitness games. In short, exergaming is a great way to bridge generational gaps and bond with friends and family.
As with any exercise program, make sure you consult your doctor first. Discuss your plans, both inside and outside the home, with him or her to make sure it is in line with your physical condition and fitness goals.
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