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Winterizing your workouts
Did you know that after 72 hours of non-activity, your muscle strength begins to regress? This happens easily during the winter when people hibernate away from their exercise routines until spring.

“Cold weather does not mean abandon your exercise routine. I always remind my patients that once you stop exercising for a prolonged period of time, it can take up to a month to regain lost ground,” says Palmetto Health Heart Hospital exercise physiologist Louis Johnston.

The benefits of exercise include stronger, more defined, toned muscles, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, more energy, less mental stress, and a lowered risk of heart disease. Here are ways to winterize workouts:

A longer warm-up of stretches is essential to getting your body ready for the temperature change.

Be comfortable
If exercising outside, wear layers of clothing. As your body warms up, peel off the layers. Most important, wear a hat to keep from losing body heat. You might be surprised, but you still need to wear sunscreen and sunglasses during the winter.

Be safe
Watch for icy spots on the sidewalk or road to prevent a twisted ankle or sprain. Or consider walking inside in a large store, a mall or a gym with an indoor track. These places are safe and climate-controlled.

Stay hydrated
During the summertime, people are more aware of heat stroke and dehydration. It still is important to pay attention to fluid loss. Be sure to drink water before, during and after your workout.

Find a friend
Exercising with a friend is always easier than going solo. You can support and motivate each other.

Get creative
Try something new. Snow skiing or ice skating may not be an option in South Carolina, but there are plenty of indoor sports, like basketball or even indoor ice skating. Take classes such as karate, kickboxing, aerobics, or yoga. Try out a variety of fitness toys: a jump rope, a stability ball, exercise videos, and cardio machines at home or the gym.

Often people will skip a warm-up and go straight into their exercise activity. “This is a mistake,” says Iris Smith, Director of Palmetto Health Richland Rehab Services. “A simple, five- to ten-minute warm-up can reduce your risk of injury by improving muscle elasticity.” Other benefits include:
• Increases core body temperature, which improves calorie burning efficiency
• Increases metabolism, delivering more oxygen to your muscles
• Improves tolerance to exercise
• Improves muscle control and joint range of motion
• Psychologically prepares you for more intense exercise

Your warm-up should consist of a lower intensity period of your same activity, such as jogging before running or cycling in easier gears. It also can be any exercise that elevates the heart rate and increases body temperature, such as jumping jacks or step-ups.

“Overall, the rule of thumb is to break a light sweat,” explains Smith. “Then follow up with stretching the primary muscles you’ll use during your workout. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds and repeat two to three times.”