It's Easy to Fall Prey to 'Exercise Hibernation'

Q. Dear Dr. Baskett: I am trying to lose weight but have a hard time exercising because of the winter weather. What can I do?

A. It’s pretty easy to be active in the summer and early fall. Those seasons are naturals for walking, hiking, swimming and riding your bike. However during the cold winter months, it’s easy to fall prey to “exercise hibernation.”

Four out of 10 adults in the United States don’t get any exercise. Another three get some exercise but not enough to meet the minimum recommended by health experts. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week is needed to improve and maintain health. If weight control is your goal, you need at least 45 to 60 minutes a day.

To become and stay fit year round, exercise needs to an important part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. You might think of exercise as something that takes time, equipment, expensive athletic shoes and spandex. However, you don’t need to join a gym to increase your activity level. This is a great time of year to get started in a walking program, or just add a few extra steps to your normal daily routine. Almost everyone can benefit from extra steps. Start by getting a step counter (pedometer) to find your baseline number — you may be surprised by how many steps you already take in a day. Then set goals to add a few more steps every day. You can take your extra steps all at one time or spread out over the course of the day. Strive for 10,000 steps a day.

Remember, when it comes to your health, every step counts. Two thousand steps are equal to about one mile. Most people will walk one mile in about 20 minutes. Did you know that if you changed nothing else in your day-to-day routine but increased your activity by 2,000 steps a day, you would lose about 10 pounds in a year?

Happy walking, and enjoy our beautiful spring.

Kathleen Baskett, MD is the Medical Director of Weight Management at St. Vincent Healthcare. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the author of “Moving Forward: The Weigh to a Healthier Weight”.