Dec 082005
Authors: Sarah Rawley

Subzero temperatures, snow and wind might make you feel like hibernating, but you don't have to give up exercise and fitness goals. There are many different options for exercising indoors. Specific fitness areas allow exercises for flexibility, strength and even cardiovascular conditioning.

"Movement is the key link to staying fit," said Sue Schildge, pilates instructor at the REC center. "This could be not gaining weight, getting your heart rate up on a regular basis or truly keeping flexible. Everyone needs to think about how staying fit is different for them."

Short days and winter blues can often bring about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which affects an estimated half-million people every winter between September and April. Symptoms include regular depression, excessive eating and sleeping, weight gain, social problems, anxiety, loss of libido and/or mood changes, according to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association.

Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate activity every day can counter this.

"Often people lose energy during the winter months. Maintaining some sort of physical activity can keep up your energy and mood, and assist with stress," said Tamar Cline, strength and fitness assistant director at the REC center.

Schildge recommended breathing and flexibility exercises such as pilates and yoga because "spinal flexibility feeds the rest of the body."

Pilates exercises were designed by a physical therapist and are often used by dancers and athletes to target muscles in the trunk, increase flexibility and improving circulation.

Yoga's gentle exercises have been around for centuries in Asia, and offer mental as well as physical therapy. Its all-around benefits include toning, strengthening, flexibility and even endurance with power yoga.

Ayurvedic medicine, the sister science to yoga, sees winter as a time to keep activity or "inner fire" in life. The human body responds to winter with increased strength and digestion capacity.

Yoga can provide an outlet to build warmth for the body through practice, specifically sun salutations.

"Certain poses such as backbends and inversions balance hormones and uplift emotions, and lessen depression," said Sarada Holik, a yoga instructor for the past five years and senior dietetics major.

The REC center offers several yoga and pilates classes as part of the Mind and Body program. Classes are free the week of finals.

At the gym, there are also many fitness classes that offer something for everyone, including abs, cardio, dance and flexibility.

Winter is an ideal time for strength training for many athletes in their offseason. Weight bearing exercises improve bone strength and prevent osteoporosis, especially for women.

Swimming laps or water workouts are a great way to get a good aerobic workout and strengthen muscles with little to no impact.

Spinning classes are new the REC center this year and can be an intense aerobic workout.

"First and foremost you get your heart rate up and burn calories. It is almost important to focus on form, to push to your max and know how to relax doing it," Sue said.

Cline stressed that 30 minutes of activity doesn't necessarily have to be exercise. If the weather is too bad to go outside or get to the REC center, stretching in the front of the TV or cleaning the house can be a form of activity.

Indoor rock climbing gyms, going dancing or even mall walking can be both exercise and a social outlet.

"Even walking up stairs several times a day is a wonderful workout," Schildge said.

Many activities that can be done at home in short bursts during the day can reap benefits, such as jumping rope, stationary lunges and jumping jacks. Many pilates and yoga exercises are available on video or DVD.

Getting outside also opens up an entirely new realm of activities to choose from. But if you'd rather be sipping cocoa in the lodge than skiing on the slopes, there are still plenty of opportunities to stay fit indoors.

It's just a matter of getting motivated and getting moving.

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