Baby, It’s Cold Outside

snow_cover_map_NOAA_27Dec12With almost 70% of the US currently covered in snow it’s fair to say that the weather outside is frightful. However, before you start embracing the lyrics of Let it Snow!, consider that sitting by the fire, popping corn may be more frightful than delightful. At least as far as your fitness routine is concerned. Though you may be layered in sweatshirts, stockings and scarves, staying active is important no matter what the temperature. “It’s hard to stay motivated in the winter. When temperatures plummet, the last thing we want to do is leave the comfort and warmth of our homes. But winter is not a good excuse to give up our fitness routines,” says Kara Smith, personal trainer and group fitness coordinator at the Loyola Center for Fitness. Two women run down Mountain Avenue in a snowstorm.Yet, there are a lot of great outdoor fitness activities you can only enjoy during the winter months, such as hockey or ice skating, skiing and snowshoeing.  And you don’t have to abandon your outdoor running and walking routines, just modify them a little. Here’s some tips for exercising outside in the cold.

  1. Wear a hat, scarf and gloves.
  2. Take special care with extremities, especially nose, ears, fingers and toes.  Keep them covered to prevent frostbite.
  3. Moisture is extremely dangerous when exercising in the cold so make sure your shoes are waterproof to keep your feet dry.
  4. Wear layers. Exercise will generate heat, which may make you feel too warm. Layers allow you the option of taking off piece by piece to keep you at a comfortable temperature.
  5. exercise in the snowLayer correctly. The first layer should be a synthetic material such as polypropylene to keep sweat off your skin. Avoid cotton since it stays wet and can cause your skin to get cold. The next layer should be fleece or wool for insulation. The top layer should be a waterproof, breathable material. Avoid heavy jackets that may cause you to overheat if exercising hard.
  6. Stay hydrated. In the summer months we think about hydrating, but it’s important in winter, too. Winter is a very dry time of year so your body needs more water even when not sweating. Dehydration causes muscle fatigue and weakness.
  7. Find an exercise partner and schedule times to workout together.
  8. Beware of  your footing while out on your run. Beneath the snow, there could be a sheet of ice which could cause you to slip. If you want to protect yourself from slipping on unexpected layers of ice, make sure you have suitable footwear with sufficient traction
  9. Plan your route before you set off. There are various things that you need to keep in mind – the level of traffic, the thickness of the snow, the weather forecast for the next few hours, and distance. In snowy weather, it is sometimes better to stick to the busier roads as breaking trail in heavy snow can be very difficult .
  10. stay-active-this-winter-staying-fit-and-healthyConsider your safety. Once you have planned your route, tell friends and family where you will be and how long you could be gone for. Carry your mobile phone and be prepared to walk back should you suffer an injury.
  11. Watch out for traffic. Snow and ice not only affects your movement as a runner, but the movement of vehicles on the road. Because of the treacherous driving conditions, there is an increased rate of road accidents. Always try to position yourself facing the traffic so you can see what’s happening ahead of you.

Remember winter doesn’t last forever so stop hibernating and get out and enjoy what this season has to offer. SRxA-logo for web

Rethinking Resolutions

Tablet PC computer with 2013 New Year counterNew Year’s resolutions. In previous years SRxA’s Word on Health has provided some great tips to help our readers improve their health. This year’s no different…except we’re telling you not to make resolutions.

Yes! We are officially letting you off the hook.  Why? Because according to new research, thinking of health and fitness goals as “New Year’s resolutions” can actually harm your health and have nasty emotional side effects.   For starters two-thirds of people end up ditching their New Year’s goals within weeks of starting them, less than 20% of people will stay with their resolutions for more than six months and less than 10% will keep them all year. This inability to stay on track, can lead to feelings of failure and inadequacy. Experiencing setbacks such as cheating on your diet or skipping a day at the gym can amplify those feelings, resulting in a downward spiral that can lead you back into old habits faster than if you hadn’t made resolutions in the first place.

New Year Fresh startAlthough cutting back on certain foods can be good for your health, completely depriving yourself of them can be a problem. While most New Year’s resolutions revolve around the idea of deprivation: eliminate fat or carbs or salt…these all have a place, in moderation, in your diet. The only time quitting a habit completely is really good for you is if it is dangerous to your health, like smoking or binge drinking. Even then, quitting cold turkey can be hard; it can take months to wean yourself from bad habits. The key is moderation, not deprivation.

Another problem with resolutions is that diet and fitness targets are often totally unrealistic. Setting over-ambitious goals for yourself can lead to perceived failure which means you’ll be more likely to give up and slip right back into old habits.  The key to improving your health habits is to gradually implement change and incorporate them as a part of your lifestyle.

new-year-resolutio_2384285bFinally, remember that feeding and fueling your body mentally, physically and spiritually should be fun. You should never feel like taking care of yourself is work. New Year’s resolutions often take all of the enjoyment out of the process of change. Improving yourself is not just about the end goal, it’s about overcoming obstacles in between and becoming more confident and aware of who you are. Yes, the destination matters, but so does the journey.

So this year, you have our permission to ditch the resolutions, and forego the guilt.  Instead, why not focus on the present…and each day think of one thing you can do right now, towards your goal?

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Black Friday Fitness

After a day of over-indulging on family, food and football, now it’s time to turn your thoughts to Holiday shopping. But before heading out to join the Black Friday frenzy, SRxA’s Word on Health is here to make sure you’re prepared.

First, you need to recognize that Black Friday shopping is a sport and a dangerous sport at that!  You need to prepare with the thoroughness of an Olympic athlete to outperform your competition.

And while it might be too late to get in shape for the 2012 holiday shopping season, it’s never too early to begin next year’s preparations!

The workout plan below will help you get ready to take on both the stores and the other shoppers by improving your agility to grab the best deals.

Warm Up

  • 5-minutes on the treadmill or elliptical will help warm up your muscles in preparation for the door-opening and mad stampede that follows


  • 25  x Jumping Jacks – will help to reach those must-have items on the top shelves
  • 2  x Agility Ladder runs – be ready to make sharp turns while maintaining speed and control to help you avoid crowds and crush injuries
  • 10 x Box Jumps – to develop lower body power and elevate your heart rate and prepare you for both the physical exertion and psychological stress of a long day of shopping
  • 25 yard Bear Crawls – to help strengthen your back and core in preparation for carrying home all those bargains
  • 5 x Suicide Runs –  to build up your endurance and agility
  • 25 x Walking Lunges – to tone up your glutes, hamstrings and quads, so you look good while you shop
  • 45 x Pick Pockets. Help yourself to evade pick-pockets through these abdominal twists and turns
  • 15 Push-ups. Work out all the muscles in your upper body and build optimal strength in your forearms, wrists, upper arms, shoulders and chest. All important for pushing carts and maximizing parcel carrying power.
  • 10 Dumbbell Deadlifts – work your back, butt, hips and legs, ready for taking steps three at a time and gaining headway on those standing in line for the elevator

Cool Down: 

  • Stretching out, eyes closed, on the recliner or arms raises with a cold adult beverage

After all – if you make it out of the mall, with body and finances still relatively intact – you’ve earned it!

Exercise Keeps You Young

Duh, not exactly the sort of groundbreaking news you’ve come to expect from SRxA’s Word on Health.  However, before you click away from our humble blog, today we’re asking and answering the question “Just how young?”

Well, how about no gray hair, lots of energy, superior muscle mass and brain volume, and that’s just for starters.

At least that’s the case in mice. According to Canadian researchers when mice, who were genetically programmed to age quickly, exercised regularly starting at 3 months old for five month,s they aged dramatically differently than the mice who were sedentary. Those poor inactive mice were balding and frail, while the super-mice who ran the equivalent of a human 10K (6 miles), three times a week starting at age 20, were lean, muscular and youthful. They did not have the expected age-related shrinkage of their brains, hearts, muscles, skin, hair, ovaries, testicles, spleen, kidneys, and liver.

They were even were able to balance on narrow rods…though why a mouse would want to do that is beyond us!

The explanation for these incredible findings appears to be in the mitochondria. Aging in humans cause mitochondria to malfunction and die making you  look older. Additionally, anything that reduces the number or efficiency of mitochondria interferes with your body’s ability to burn fat and sugar for energy.  As a result, blood sugar, fat and cholesterol levels rise and you gain weight.

Exercise however, increases the number and size of mitochondria in your cells .

No doubt, the fact that their gonads were healthy made the students working with researcher, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, very, very impressed (and quite possibly, training for their first marathon).

We’d love to tell you more, but we too are going out for a run!