Winter is a good time for walking
It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s windy. The kids are bouncing off the walls. Welcome to winter in the Yukon!
How the heck are you supposed to keep your sanity and fend off those love handles that balloon out around your waist each November?
Believe it or not, there is an easy, cheap solution.
It’s not a drug or pill.
You can’t buy it at the mall or on EBay.
It’s physical activity — simply moving your body!
Physical activity provides all sorts of benefits, both physical and mental.
This is especially important during our long winters when the tendency might be to simply hunker down with the remote control to catch up on the movies and the video games.
The simplest (and most common) exercise is walking.
It is one of the most basic of all physical activities, being convenient, safe and healthy.
Walking can be done almost anywhere, and it provides us time to socialize with friends and family.
It refreshes the mind, reduces fatigue and increases energy.
Walking can help prevent osteoporosis, a cause of brittle bones, and it can relieve stress and tension.
If walking is not your thing, remember this — any physical activity is good, but the best activity is the one that you’re actually going to do.
Active living means including physical activity as part of your daily routine.
This holds true for winter as well as summer.
Walk rather than taking the car for short trips.
Shovel the snow instead of using a snow blower.
Get out and play with the kids. Instead of yakking on the phone — grab a few friends and go for a walk to get caught up.
Is it really as easy as all that?
To a certain degree it is, but let’s face it, there are some obstacles that can prevent us from being as active as we would like (or know we should be).
It is human nature to feel not as keen about going out for a stroll when it is cold or dark.
But with a little planning there’s no reason outdoor activities need to be limited to spring or summer.
Dealing with the cold begins with dressing properly — this means dressing in layers, choosing the right materials (avoid thin cotton, like jeans), covering your head, neck, ears and hands (mittens are warmer than gloves) and wearing a windproof outer garment.
Snow conditions permitting, it’s good to lighten your load by wearing training shoes with cotton-wool blend socks instead of heavy boots.
Besides wearing proper clothing, it is a good idea to drink before and after exercise and to carry a water bottle with a warm liquid.
Choose a route that you or a friend know, or take a short out-and-back route so that you don’t end up being out too long.
Learn the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia, and make sure you head back home before getting chilled.
Any signs of shivering, numbness or burning/tingling should not be ignored!
Believe it or not, sun screen for your face is a good idea — even if it is not warm out, sun reflecting off snow and ice can cause sunburn.
You don’t need to shy away from the dark either — wear light -coloured clothes, reflective material and carry a flashlight, or use a headlamp — many small models are available relatively cheaply.
If possible stick to lighted streets and walkways. Many trails can be used in the winter even if they are covered in packed snow.
Consider using a ski pole (or two) to help with balance and support. If you are concerned about footing, consider buying a pair of traction/safety soles which can be attached to your shoes. A number of models are available locally.
Finally, consider carrying a good whistle with you — this will improve your peace of mind, knowing that if you do fall or run in to trouble, you are more able to attract help.
Unfortunately there are some barriers that you may not be able to control. Snow may not be cleared from sidewalks or trails and so may accumulate.
The shoulders of highways may not be as safe for walking as they are in the summer. Believe it or not some streets in downtown Whitehorse do not even have built sidewalks, forcing walkers to battle cars, and icy or uneven snow conditions.
If you experience such situations, bring them to the attention of your elected officials.
If you would like to find out more about winter walking and how to make it work for you, join RPAY for a one-hour Winter Active workshop on December 6th at 7 p.m.
The event is free, but you do need to pre-register by calling our healthy living co-ordinator at 668-3012. All participants will receive a reflective arm band.
This column is the first in a series provided by RPAY — the Recreation and Parks Association of the Yukon — to provide ideas about how to be more active this winter.