9 Ways to Stay Active This Winter

As the days get shorter and colder, combat the winter blues with some exercise.

We all know physical fitness is important and that exercise is the only way to achieve it, but there are bonus effects of exercise that are equally important, especially over the coming winter months. Exercise has been proven equally effective to medication when it comes to treating anxiety and depression, and a review of 79 studies in 2000 showed that nearly 80% of participants who were new to exercise reported significant gains in self-worth and other physical self-perceptions after exercise. These days we’re lucky to have so many unique options to get motivated to get a sweat on, I’ve looked into a few that are available in Halifax.

1. Take your dog for a jog

Skip the dog park, lace up, and let your dog take you for a run. If you’re looking to shake up your exercise routine why not cross two things off your “to-do list” at the same time and give canicross a try. Sarah from DogRunnin says:

Simply put, canicross is the sport of running with your dog. Running has limitless benefits for both humans and dogs. Not only will it help improve the physical health of both, there are also many mental health benefits to running as well. Running can help improve the overall temperament of your dog as well as with anxiety, stress, and destructive behaviors. These benefits, as you’ve probably noted, are very paralleled to the mental health benefits exercise provides us humans. The distinct difference and additional benefit from canicross that differs from your dog running at the dog park while you head to the gym, is the change in relationship you will have with your dog. Canicross isn’t simply taking your dog for a run, it’s building a dynamic relationship of teammates who respond to each other and move with synchronicity. Canicross will strengthen the bond between dog and human.

While we dabble in all varieties of harness dog sports at DogRunnin, we have a special affinity for canicross. Like any new skill, running as a team with your dog doesn’t always come easily. At DogRunnin among other canine fitness services we offer (such as on leash and off leash services), we also coach canicross, helping dogs and humans get on the same page while running together. If you’re looking to give something new a try in your exercise routine, why not explore the world of dog sports and give canicross a try!

2. Walk it off

Running isn’t the only free way to get fit. It’s just fine if you’re more inclined to a slower pace since walking is also proven to improve cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It can also reduce the risk of colon cancer and diabetes, reduce body fat and control body weight, and increase bone density and help with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

To reap these benefits of walking all it takes is a little sweat. Research shows we need around 30 minutes 5 days a week and to reach a pace that gets us a little sweaty, but not go so fast as to make it difficult to hold a conversation. In even better news, a recent study showed that breaking the 30 minutes into three 10 minute walks showed the same benefits as one 30 minute walk. Winter is a lovely time to get outside and you can read this great article for everything from wardrobe advice to boredom busters and indoor activities for exceptionally stormy days.

3. Go for a ride

You may have heard some pretty intense things about indoor cycling classes in the past, but Elana from Cyclone Group Fitness wants to clear away those intimidating myths. She has this to say:

Let’s face it, the weather has turned and it’s cold and dark at “peak” workout times. But, there is no need to get the winter blues in terms of your fitness routine. And no need to wait until January 1 to make those fitness resolutions. There are plenty of fun and motivating fitness activities that you can start right now! Indoor cycling is a perfect example of a year-round activity for people of any age and fitness level. It is safe and low impact and most of all, fun! The rider is in complete control of his or her resistance the entire time, as well as their speed. A highly motivating and encouraging instructor, and some fun music, can make the time in class fly by! Whether you’re a runner looking to cross-train or someone looking for a new fitness activity that will have you excited to sign up for the next class, indoor cycling is the perfect workout to start now.

At Cyclone, we believe in creating a fitness “experience” – something that you will look forward to and enjoy. We have cycling classes (as well as other classes like Barre and TRX) that are designed specifically for new participants. Our knowledgeable staff and coaches will assist with everything from bike set-up to proper stretching after the class. For more information, please email elana@cyclonegroupfitness.ca.

4. Warm up and stretch out

Yoga is a lot more accessible than people tend to give it credit for and the Bikram style is great for winter since it’s practiced in a hot room. Kristin from Bikram Yoga Halifax describes it like this:

Bikram Yoga is a beginner series made up of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises practiced in a hot room. We do the same postures every time in the same order as it works your entire body inside out, bones to skin. This yoga is for absolutely anyone no matter your age, size, flexibility or stamina. Bikram Yoga works every last bit of you. The series was scientifically designed to target every muscle, organ, joint, ligament and system in the body, building strength and flexibility. We twist for a reason! What separates us from most yoga is the compression and release affect, which restricts circulation and then releases fresh, highly oxygenated blood throughout the body. The series fast tracks oxygen to each and every cell which prevents disease. It tones your lymphatic system, your thyroid gland and your nerve functions. Practicing Bikram Yoga is like pressing a “reset” button on your hormones, getting a kick in the metabolism, and giving a gift to your immune system.

Bikram Yoga Halifax offers the finest facilities in the Maritimes. The practice room is equipped with a ‘state of the art’ heat and air exchanger that maintains the perfect atmosphere to help take your practice to the next level. Beautiful spacious change rooms offer a spa like atmosphere, making the transition to and from class a pleasure. The welcoming lounge invites you to sit and enjoy tea and connect with fellow yogis.

5. Shake it up

Ballet, Jazz, Zumba, Tap, Broadway!, Modern, and Hip Hop are just some of the classes Halifax Dance will be offering for beginners starting in the new year. The website will have updated programming details shortly, but in the meantime here’s what director Gillian says makes dancing a great workout:

Dance is a fun and light-hearted form of physical fitness that is not only good exercise for your body, it is proven to be a great form of exercise for the brain! Breaking a sweat while learning choreography in a fun and supportive studio atmosphere is infinitely more enjoyable than the monotony of a treadmill! Variety in a workout routine has a direct correlation with adherence and effectiveness. That’s why so many of our students prefer to get their workout via moving and shaking in a dance class!

6.  Express yourself

If you’re looking to get out of the box with your fitness routine, check out one of Serpentine Studios offerings. They teach 3 styles of bellydance which encourages a strong mind-body connection, helps mobilize joints, and builds strength in the legs, arms, and core while improving posture, poise, grace, and confidence. Serpentine also offers hula hoop, burlesque, flexibility, and fitness classes. Here’s how co-owner Laura describes their bootcamp:

Energize, tone, and stretch your entire body with a series of fun exercises in a bootcamp-style class. All levels are welcome as all exercises have a beginner, intermediate, and advanced variation. This class is a creative combination of yoga, fitness, and circus, including abdominal toning, strengthening, cardio, and stretching. No experience necessary, drop-ins are welcome.

7. Get Creative

If you’d like to use this winter to improve your agility, you’ve got to check out the class selection at Studio In Essence. They offer what they describes as “more well known” types of exercise like pilates, pilates reformer, TRX, and Barre, and also more “circus” style exercise including aerial hoop, aerial skills, and acrobatics. They are also well known for their raved about pole fitness classes. Studio In Essence has a level one version of every program so beginners are always welcome!

8. Unite mind, body, and spirit

“The essence of the path of martial arts lies in the peace and happiness of all human beings.” – Otsuka Sensei

Garrett from C.A.S.K. Karate says that Karate and other martial arts such as Tai Chi are excellent for not only developing the body, but also the mind and spirit. He teaches the Wado style, which is described on the Wado Association website:

Highly dynamic, karate makes balanced use of the various body muscles, provides excellent all-around exercise and develops coordination and agility. Further benefits include improved self-discipline, strength, and flexibility. Karate training helps students develop practical self-defense skills in a controlled atmosphere, and is an excellent way to relieve stress. Karate, like most martial arts, is 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical.

Some of the harsher resistive or hard contact elements of sparring technique, typical of many karate styles, are not present in Wado. The aim of Wado karate is not merely perfection of the physical techniques of self-defense but the development of a mind that is tranquil yet alive, able to react intuitively to any situation. In Wado, as skill and knowledge are acquired through training and concentrated effort, the student is expected to develop inner strength and calmness of character, as well as the virtues of self control, respect for others, and true humility.

9. Come together

Halifax City Hoopers is a group formed in 2013 that’s about a lot more than hooping. Founder Stephanie says:

Hooping is a fantastic exercise/hobby/addiction! Not only is it super fun, it can burn up to 600 calories per hour. Anyone who doesn’t believe should try hooping for 5 minutes! Halifax City Hoopers is not just a group of people that get together to hoop, we’re a growing community! We are mostly active on Facebook and I organize fun contests to keep everyone motivated and active. Most of the time the prizes are hoop related and we source prizes locally and worldwide.

We currently meet every Thursday at the Shambala School on Russel St. at 7pm. We hoop for an hour and it’s $5 each week. It’s not a class, just a hoop jam. In the summertime we hoop at the commons for 2 hours, these jams are free. In the past we have hooped in Dartmouth on Sunday evenings. Our current jams are running until December 4th and will resume after the holidays in a yet to be determined location. Hooping is more than just a fun exercise, it’s a lifestyle!

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