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Stay Active to Stop Winter Weight Gain
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cold winter weather may bring the need for extra layers of clothes, but it does not have to bring extra pounds.
The cooler temperatures and shorter days leave many people sitting inside, eating too much and exercising too little. People who allow the change of seasons to change their daily activities are at risk for gaining weight.
Linda Patterson, extension health and safety specialist at Mississippi State University, said winter weight gain can be a problem for people of all ages.
"Anyone who allows their activity level to drop during the winter is in danger of adding extra pounds," Patterson said. "If a reasonably active routine is maintained throughout the year, weight gain should not be a problem."
In addition to staying active, Patterson said to avoid any drastic changes in dietary habits. Overeating holiday foods in addition to eating normal meals can result in weight gain if not offset by exercise.
Often in winter, people eat less fruits and vegetables because they are hard to find fresh and their frozen flavor is less desirable.
To keep activity levels high, Patterson suggested joining a health club for the winter months. Most health clubs offer a variety of exercise machines, such as stair climbers, ski machines and treadmills. Clubs may also offer aerobics classes.
The specialist said avoid purchasing personal exercise equipment unless a person is experienced with a similar machine. She said it is best to try out new equipment under the supervision of a trained professional.
Since the body can take up to six weeks to get accustomed to a new activity, Patterson said progress slowly to prevent injury. Make sure muscles are properly warmed and stretched before beginning the activity.
"When it is cold, it becomes even more important to stretch well," Patterson said.
Swimming in an indoor pool and walking in a gymnasium or shopping mall are other indoor exercise options.
Patterson encouraged people not to forget about the possibility of exercising outside but cautioned those going outdoors to dress warmly, preferably in layers.
"The most important thing to remember, though, is to try to keep activity levels and eating habits the same throughout the year to avoid winter weight gain," Patterson said.