BYU students prepare for a healthy winter

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A BYU student runs outside during the winter. Students can find on-campus resources to stay healthy even as winter weather forces many people indoors. (Universe Photo)

The leaves are down and the mountains are turning white; whether Utah residents want it or not, winter is coming.

Utah’s winter, with its freezing temperatures and falling snow, sometimes means people start unhealthy habits and give up on motivation to move.

Winter tends to be a time when people overeat, not only with the copious holidays meals, but also with sweet afternoon snacks in an effort to forget about the cold reality outside.

According to Professor Iain Hunter from the BYU exercise science department, exercising in winter may be just as important as, if not more important than, exercising in summer.

Constant exercising throughout the year is critical to good health and fitness. But exercising in winter perhaps requires more planning and effort.

“If you are exercising outside, have a good gradual warm up routine,” Hunter said. “Muscles, tendons and ligaments all need to warm up to an optimal temperature to be able to resist the stresses put on them and it takes a longer time in the winter.”

Snowy and icy surfaces make it difficult for runners, who must adapt to each step. These unfamiliar surfaces can increase the risk of injuries. Hunter advises students to exercise indoors when they can. He especially advises students who have problems breathing due to the cold weather or air pollution to find activities indoors.

Students can find indoor exercising resources like an indoor track and weight room at the BYU student gym in the Smith Fieldhouse.

Hunter reminds students they only need a few minutes of exercise a day to stay healthy and fit. “Try to find creative ways to put exercise in your daily routine,” Hunter said. “Walk to school, have someone to exercise with to make it more enjoyable and set goals.”

Students walk to classes during a heavy snow storm. There are options available for BYU students to cope with winter weather. (David Scott)

He said setting goals is an important part of exercising because it allows people to see their progress and find motivation.

Professor Susan Fullmer from the BYU Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science Department, reminds BYU students to eat healthy, balanced diets that include fruits and vegetables. Eating well, sleeping well and exercising are crucial to staying healthy and alert in the winter.

Fullmer said monitoring portion sizes is key to preventing weight gain around the holidays. Regarding Thanksgiving dinner, she said to choose what to indulge in. “Pick and choose what you are going to overeat,” Fullmer said. “It’s only one day, so don’t stay away from the food you like, but don’t feel compelled to eat it all.”

Fullmer said websites such as choosemyplate.gov help students plan healthy diets. On-campus resources such as Y Be Fit and the Student Health Center can also help students develop healthy habits.

“Students often feel like they can get away with eating anything, but nutrition has long-term consequences and it’s easier to get good habits when you are younger,” Fullmer said. “Eating healthy comes with a little bit of planning and while there is no one good or bad food, there are good diets and bad diets.”

BYU pole vaulter Kyle Brown said he spends the winter getting ready to start competing in January. His training usually amounts to between 10 to 15 hours a week. As an athlete, he said he never trains outside once it’s cold.

“We do a lot of sprint training, which is very dangerous in the cold,” Brown said. “It’s very important to be warmed up before engaging in strenuous activity.”

Before exercising outside in cold temperatures, BYU students should inquire about the risks and seek advice from BYU staff and health resources.

 

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