Ask EFNEP: Staying Active in the Winter

— By Mikaela Greenwald, EFNEP Community Education Assistant – York County, ME

This blog entry is part of our “Ask EFNEP” blog posts, where members of UMaine Cooperative Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) answer questions they are asked when delivering food and nutrition programs. This question was answered by Mikaela Greenwald. Mikaela has worked as an educator for EFNEP in York County for about a year and enjoys teaching about healthy habits and ice skating in the winter.

Question: What are some low- or no-cost ways my family and I can stay active during the Maine winter?

Answer: As we settle into the winter season the days get shorter, the nights get longer, and it can be a challenge to keep up with physical activity. However, implementing at least 30 minutes of activity most days of the week can provide significant physical and mental benefits.

The benefits of physical activity can include improving sleep, memory, and attention, reducing anxiety and depression, and lowering the risk of certain chronic diseases.
The good news is that there are lots of ways to stay active in the winter! Outdoor activities can include:

  • Walking
  • Snowshoeing
  • Ice skating
  • Skiing
  • Sledding

These activities and others are great at getting your heart rate up while enjoying the outdoors. Make sure you prepare adequately by wearing layers, checking the weather, being cautious of slick conditions, and staying hydrated, even if you don’t feel as thirsty as you might in warmer months. Drinking plenty of water and incorporating other drinks such as unsweetened herbal tea, warm apple cider, and low-fat or non-fat milk can help you stay hydrated.

Winter is also a great time for indoor activities. Participating in yoga or exercise classes at local locations or through YouTube or Zoom are great ways to stay active without facing the elements. Structured exercise classes aren’t the only way to be active – turn on some music and just dance!

In addition to the 30 minutes each day of aerobic activity (sometimes called cardio), it is recommended that most adults also do some sort of muscle strengthening activities two days each week. Aerobic activities can include walking, jogging, dancing, ice skating, and skiing, amongst other activities that get your heart rate up! Muscle strengthening activities can include lifting weights, using resistance bands, and body weight activities including sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups. Some physical activity is better than none and little changes can have a significant impact on your health!

Whether you are indoors or outdoors, it’s important to make physical activity an enjoyable part of your routine. Incorporating a variety of activities and inviting a friend or family member to join you can help you stay on track.

Check out the following links for more information about indoor and outdoor activities in Maine.

Also be sure to check with your local schools, libraries, and YMCAs for additional resources including activity programming and low cost (or free) ski or snowshoe rentals.