In countries like South Africa and Australia where life is lived outdoors due to the warm, welcoming climate, keeping fit is an easier feat. But what about when you’re living in a country like Canada or Russia when the climate, especially in the winter months, isn’t so pleasant? Whether you’ve recently moved to a country with a colder climate or you’re preparing for the move, here are five ways you can keep fit and stay healthy.
- Face the cold - go running
While outdoor activities are arguably more pleasant in mild or warm climates, you can still go running outdoors even if temperatures are below freezing. Before battling the cold you’ll need to make sure you’re properly warmed-up, otherwise you could easily pull a muscle and inflict some serious damage.
Start by spending around five to ten minutes doing simple cardio exercises to increase your heart rate, including jumping jacks, burpees, and step ups. Once you’ve got your heart rate up and you’re feeling nice and warm, you’ll want to do some dynamic stretching before facing the great outdoors.
Finding the right clothing to wear for running can be more difficult than you might think. While your instinct may tell you to wrap up extra warm, you should actually avoid wearing too many layers. Once you start moving your body will warm up quickly, and if you’re wearing too many layers, you may end up feeling overheated, restricted and uncomfortable. With that said, you’ll also find yourself cooling down quickly after the run which is why you’ll need just the right amount of layers to keep warm.
To tackle this, you may want to wear a long sleeve tech shirt as a base layer (either a medium-weight or a heavy-weight base layer shirt depending on how cold it is), running tights or pants, running gloves, a headband or hat with visor, and a windproof running jacket. If you get too hot when running, you can always tie the jacket around your waist and put it back on once you’re cooling off.
Most importantly, watch out for areas that are icy or covered in thick snow - if possible, try to find locations where pathways have been cleared and are safe for public use.
2. Maintain a healthy diet
When temperatures start to fall, it’s easy to slip into the ‘winter body’ mindset. But for countries where winters are colder and last longer, you’ll need to try maintaining a healthy diet by packing your body with all of the right nutrients.
Try opting for lean meats, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and grains, while exercising regularly. Comfort foods and sweet treats are fine from time to time and can help fight off the winter blues - just try not to over-indulge!
- Stay hydrated
This may sound obvious, but you need to make sure you stay hydrated. In fact, research finds that you are more likely to get dehydrated during the winter months, mostly because your body’s thirst response is diminished (by up to 40%) in cold weather.
When it’s cold outside you may not feel as thirsty, and you may feel like you are not really sweating, so make sure you keep hydrated and drink water throughout the day and especially before, during and after exercising.
- Try Winter Sports
Moving to a country with a colder climate doesn’t mean you have to avoid outdoor activities, you merely have to adapt to your surroundings and figure out ways you can achieve a healthy lifestyle. One way is to try winter sports. From ice skating and skiing to snowboarding and sledding, there are plenty of enjoyable ways to keep fit in the winter.
If it’s your first time experiencing a winter sport, maybe try some training classes before diving straight in - winter sports can be dangerous and you don’t want to end up injuring yourself. If you do happen to have an accident while participating in snowsports, as an expat it’s important to have some kind of international health insurance plan in place.
- Retreat inside
If it’s far too snowy outside, there are plenty of ways you can keep fit through indoor activities. Going to the gym is an obvious yet great option. Or if you’re struggling with motivation, perhaps joining a class or two at a local fitness facility would do the trick? From CrossFit to Zumba, there are plenty of fitness courses and classes out there to suit you.
If you prefer exercising in the privacy of your own home, having a set of weights lying around the house is also a good motivator, even if you pick them up and do 15 to 30 minutes of exercise per day. You could also try online fitness videos, tutorials or old school DVDs if you’re struggling with motivation and need a virtual instructor to give you the boost you need.
Exercising in a cold climate doesn’t have to be difficult, but as an expat, it can be hard to adjust, especially if you’re moving from a warmer country. Keeping fit and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be made much easier as long as you stay motivated, and remain open-minded when it comes to trying new exercise routines in your new home country. Hopefully, these five tips will help you on your journey to keep fit and healthy.