Get exercising this ‘cold’ season

It’s the cold season again. November, December, January, February, and even March can be blustery.
It’s time to bundle up when you go outside and to sit by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and a book.
But even more, this is the “cold” season–the season when we get colds.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases estimates that Americans contract one billion colds each year. Adults have, on the average, two-four colds a year while children have six-10 annually.
Most of these colds come in the winter.
Cold weather brings people together indoors, which leads to more person-to-person contact. And being a winter “couch potato” also leads to more colds, researchers say.
So although it feels cozy sitting by the fire, taking a brisk walk may better help you fight off the common cold. Exercise stimulates disease-fighting cells and consequently can build up your immune system.
One study on exercise and colds compared women who walked briskly from 35-45 minutes, five days a week, with those who remained physically inactive. The researchers found the walkers experienced about half as many colds as the sedentary women.
Our bodies are made to move. “Exercise is medicine” is a popular slogan among health and fitness experts.
A good exercise regime can help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and possibly prevent a stroke or heart attack.
It also can help treat or prevent a wide range of common medical conditions, including asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, and even cancer.
With plenty of exercise, you’ll be more relaxed, sleep better, increase your self-esteem, and have an average life expectancy of seven years longer than inactive people.
Staying physically active can delay some disabilities as people grow older. And no matter when you start, regular exercise will do you good.
Even the oldest of the old can improve their health.
In one study, participants (who averaged 87 years of age when they began an exercise program) increased muscle strength by more than 110 percent, walking speed by 12 percent, and stair-climbing power by 28 percent.
So plan your winter exercise regime now. Walk outside when the sidewalks are clear, or walk in the halls of a seniors’ centre or mall when they are icy.
Go biking when the weather is suitable. During bad weather, ride a stationary bicycle.
Go cross-country skiing when the ground is covered with snow. Or do your cross-country ski movement in the water.
A water aerobics class simulates many sports–soccer, jogging, and rope jumping. And with the resistance offered by the water, you’ll be surprised what level of fitness such a class can help you attain.
Make your exercise fun. Take a dog along. Talk to a companion. Or listen to some music with headphones.
The benefits of regular exercise are no secret. Still, almost 70 percent of older adults are inactive.
It’s about time to change those numbers. Check out the exercise options in your community or just get a good pair of walking shoes.
Then start moving and look forward to a “cold” season without the sniffles.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at