If you frequent the downtown Ellensburg area in the evenings, there is a good chance you have seen me walking my dog, Arthur, a few times a week. For both Arthur and I, walks have been a great way to stay physically active and get to know the Ellensburg community. However, with early sunsets and temperatures lowering, my motivation to leave the house for our evening walks has been gradually declining.

Whether it’s the safety concern of walking in the dark, the unappealing idea of running on icy sidewalks, or the increased desire to cuddle up on the couch with a blanket, physical activity levels tend to decrease in the winter months.

Unfortunately, while our motivation to exercise declines in the winter, the importance of maintaining physically active does not. Consistent physical activity has been well-researched, and is associated with reduced disease risk, stronger bones and improved mental health.

If those benefits sound good to you, here are some great tips for staying active during the cold months.

If you are looking to explore some new ways to exercise, winter is a great time to try indoor activities. If yoga or cycling classes don’t seem worth the extra cost, a mini gym at home might be just the right fit. Exercise balls and small weights cost around $10 each and are great for strength training.

Sit-ups, push-ups, running in place and jumping jacks require no equipment and can be incorporated into an effective exercise session. The local library is a great resource for both aerobic and strength exercise instruction videos that can be followed along from the comfort of home.

For those who would like to stick to an outdoor routine, a helpful hint to staying warm is to spend five minutes warming up your body indoors before heading outside. This can be done with jumping jacks, jogging in place, squats or stretches. Safety is also a concern, so remember to wear plenty of layers, a hat, gloves and non-slip shoes to protect you from the cold and ice. Above all, listen to your body and know when it is time to stop and go inside.

Lastly, finding the proper motivation can be helpful in maintaining a physical activity routine. This can be anything from a workout partner who wakes you up in the morning, wearing new exercise clothes or shoes, or, in my case, a dog who will drag me out the door the minute I come home. While it may require some extra effort and planning to be physically active during the winter season, the long-term health benefits will be worth it.

Alice Ma currently serves as the Healthy Futures Coordinator at HopeSource in Ellensburg through the Washington Service Corps.

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