It’s Winter Again: How to Stay in Shape

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09 Jan 2017

It’s definitely wet and cold outside!  With temperatures running below normal and wind and rain making it difficult to get out and exercise, we need to look at the alternatives to outdoor workouts and how to cope with the winter season. There are two very negative effects of winter. Firstly, it’s a time that we can easily put on the pounds, and second, we tend to exercise less, and especially if you are used to the outdoor variety.

Although some people have aerobic exercise equipment in their homes, most rely on the outdoors for their aerobic workouts.  When the rain begins to fall, the wind begins to blow and the temperatures drop, it becomes easy to excuse yourself from your daily aerobic routine. You begin working out less; just as you appetite begins to increase from the cold.  As you increase your caloric intake, you will be burning fewer calories, leading to weight gain. The average weight gain in winter is about 2 kilo, or just over 4 pounds.

One of the bigger problems is that we also make the cold and foul weather into an excuse not to exercise and to eat more.  Like anytime we are trying to “find a way out”, remember the great benefits you reap from exercise and good eating and try to use that as a motivator. If that doesn’t do the trick for you, remember that sometimes we have no choice when it comes to our health.  Remember the following, if we are late for school or work we face the principal or boss, if we let the dishes pile up we will have a big mess and no dishes to use, if we ignore the car problems we won’t get anywhere at all!  Many of the things we do daily we are not terribly excited to do but we do them anyway. And usually we feel better after we finish a task or chore—we feel accomplished and we are better able to function.  So, yes, it is cold outside or even inside and you don’t feel like exercising, but for our health, we have no choice.

So practically, how are we to cope?  Even if you have no exercise equipment, there is plenty you can do in the way of indoors aerobic exercise.  Since most of us here in Israel live in apartment buildings, we have access to staircases.  If you have three or four flights of stairs, try going up the stairs, two at a time if you can, and then walk down slowly for recovery.  Do four to six sets.  Another alternative is running in place for several minutes.  Good old simple Jumping Jacks are also aerobic.  Or try sitting yourself in the push-up position but alternate right and left to bring your knees up to your chest. As you return one side, bring up the other.  This is called the sliding ski stretch.  It is desirable to integrate all of these different types of exercises into a 25-30 minute routine.

In addition to the aerobics, couple your aerobic routine with some resistance training.  Do abdominal exercises as well as push-ups and bench dips, and use a simple exercise band to work other muscles.  It is good to intersperse these exercises within your aerobic routine – something we call circuit training.  For instance, you can do 4 sets of staircases, and then do your abs.  Then you can run/jog in place for 5 minutes and do your push-ups and dips.  Follow this with some jumping jacks and sliding ski stretches, and general stretches after you have finished.  This is a quick and easy way to stay in shape no matter what the weather is outside. 

And as far as the outside goes, if you want to brave the cold, dress appropriately.  Gloves and warm sweat clothes are a good idea.  Either a hood or ski hat will help you retain your body heat and water, which escapes through your head.  Be careful to stay hydrated even though it’s cold. We all have a tendency to not drink enough when it gets cold outside.  If you want to workout in the rain, be sure to wear waterproof exercise wear. 

I Don’t Feel like Exercising

In winter, we can develop a general lower level of happiness. This is basically low-level dissatisfaction—not depression—that we can get when it’s cold and dark. When this occurs, we are twice as likely to use comfort foods as a pick-me-up as we would under more moderate weather conditions. In winter, we go for energy-dense, high calorie foods, which tend to be sweet or have high fat content. We know that food itself is a comfort as far as mood goes, because it actually impacts the brain the same as drugs do.  In addition, we secrete more Melatonin in the winter. Melatonin is the hormone that controls our day-night cycles in our bodies. It is increased in the winter and that has a negative effect on our getup and go.  It makes us want to sleep more and be lazy.  Also, keep in mind that in the winter, SAD can hit you.  That stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It is a real disorder and causes mild depression due to the season you are in.  Most people suffer from this much more in the winter.  Although somewhat counterintuitive, exercising is a great way to overcome SAD.  Even though we don’t feel like exercising, it is exactly what we need.   In addition, plan gatherings with family and friends and schedule time doing activities we enjoy. Use natural and true mood enhancers rather than food-based mood enhancement as a quick-fix. The sense of true enjoyment and connection we derive from these activities will last longer and help us avoid the health-eroding effects of junk foods.

Don’t let the winter add up to more calories consumed and less expended.  Be vigilant in your workout and try to keep your caloric consumption in check.  Fresh hot soups and herbal teas can help curb your appetite.  And remember – exercising and staying active in the winter are great ways to stay nice and warm.  The benefits are incredible and you DON’T HAVE TO GAIN THAT 2 KILO!

Staying in good shape during the winter is another way to “add hours to your day, days to your years, and years to your life.”


Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. CERTIFIED PERSONAL TRAINER and a BEHAVIORAL CHANGE and WELLNESS COACH with over 19 years of professional experience. Alan is the creator and director of the “10 Weeks to Health” program for weight loss. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs both in his office and by telephone and skype. Alan also lectures and gives seminars and workshops. He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at Check out the his web site – US Line: 516-568-5027.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.