Don't let the weather keep you from your exercise goals
Jan. 31, 2024
By Mary Wade Burnside
Don Calhoun’s doctor suggested that he lose some weight to improve his health and vital statistics. So Calhoun, a Morgantown resident, did some research that said he should aim for 10,000 steps a day.
“I thought, ‘There is no way I can do that,” he said. “But I started doing it. And I got up to 3,500 steps and then to 4,000 steps, doing more each time.”
Eventually, he reached 10,000 steps, seven days a week. He’s lost nearly 40 pounds and his blood pressure went from 150/90 to 120/80.
While some exercise experts say that individuals can maintain their health with even fewer daily steps, one thing is clear: Perseverance and practice can pay off. Exercise is important and even if those first walks or workouts don’t go like you had hoped, they will improve if you keep trying.
Each week, adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle strengthening activity, according to information on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website and amplified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of course, individuals should check with their health care provider first, but exercise is clearly one of the paths to improved overall health, and that plus strength training can help people keep moving and also perform daily tasks and functions as their bodies age.
Higher activity levels also help improve diseases that plague West Virginians in a disproportionate manner, such as diabetes. About 16% of adult West Virginians have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, and that does not include those who don’t know they have it.
Exercise is important year-round but winter can present challenges.
Calhoun got around that obstacle by joining the walkers who get their steps in at the Mountaineer Mall on Green Bag Road.
The mall’s property manager, Bekah Gillespie, noted that the mall experiences an increase in walkers during the cold, snowy and dark days.
“Somebody measured years back and one lap around the mall was one mile,” she said.
The mall is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and until 5 p.m. on Sundays.
I witnessed the popularity of walking at the mall on Martin Luther King Day when I had an appointment there. Needing to get some steps in on that day, I joined in and felt the camaraderie of the community as individuals walked close to the wall, with many making detours to go down different corridors and hallways.
I’m also lucky because Monongalia County Health Department is adjacent to the WVU Health Sciences Campus, which provides a variety of walking routes in varying lengths, with inclines if you want them and some flat areas if you don’t.
As someone who avoided the gym during the height of the COVID pandemic, I’m happy that I’ve learned how to incorporate more exercise into my day. Even when I don’t feel like it, weather permitting, I know that if I walk for at least 20 minutes, I will feel less stressed, more energized and just better for the rest of the day.
Gyms and other exercise classes and facilities provide another opportunity to work out. And this would be a great time to participate in an indoor activity such as bowling.
And if you have an internet connection and at least a little bit of space at home, YouTube provides an increasing number of quality videos at easy, moderate and advanced levels of difficulty. The pandemic and better video equipment created a perfect storm and many trainers have taken advantage of the opportunity to put their content out there. When I go this route for exercise, listening to a podcast or music really helps.
While MCHD providers enjoy helping our patients with a variety of health needs, it’s also important for individuals to take care of themselves and do their part.
So if you’ve been using the darkness and weather as an excuse not to exercise, remember that there are plenty of opportunities to get moving.
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.