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Winter workouts for the weather-weary

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Exercising during warmer months is relatively easy. You can walk to brunch, bike to work or run along the lake. Winter complicates that routine. Ice, snow and frosty temperatures make our habits to stay healthy (and live fuel-efficiently) difficult—and treacherous.

In the winter, you run the risk of slipping on ice while walking down the sidewalk or stepping off a curb. A fall while skiing or ice skating could be detrimental, and shoveling heavy loads of snow may put extreme pressure on your heart.

“You have to realize that in the cold, you’re not in as good shape as in summer,” said Paul Radzki, exercise physiologist at Weiss. Radzki teaches exercise classes and also works with heart attack patients in cardiac rehabilitation. “We definitely see more cardiovascular problems when there’s a heavy snowfall.”

Radzki recommends doing chair exercises while you’re watching television or reading in your living room. To work your core muscles, slouch against the back of your chair and then lift yourself forward, as if you’re reaching for a remote control. For a good workout, do this at least 15 times—then repeat with 15 more.

You can also stand up from your chair and sit back down repeatedly, without using your arms to push yourself up or ease your trip down. This is a form of squats and works the lower half of your body.

“These are good for older and younger populations,” Radzki said, adding that walking up and down stairs is beneficial aerobic exercise.

If you neglect exercise during winter, you run the risk of weight gain, vascular issues, heart and pulmonary problems. “You’ll also be getting more out of shape and stiff, which means more injuries can happen,” Radzki said.

Combat this by walking laps in a shopping mall or parking further from a store in a cleared parking lot. You can also join a fitness center, but do your research first and find one that fits your needs.

“Find one that is comfortable and convenient for you, specifically for your age,” Radzki said. A 70-year-old, for example, may feel overwhelmed by the 20-somethings in the big-name national gyms. A local community center or YMCA could be a better fit, and offer more classes geared toward that age.

“You want to find a place where you’re going to be happy,” Radzki said.

People in Chicago can work out with Radzki on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the lobby of Lakeshore Medical Center (4700 N. Marine Drive) at 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. He also leads an exercise class for Weiss employees at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays in the WISE Senior Center.

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