Due to shorter days, less physical activity, and abundant meals, winter is a time when most adults experience increasing bodyweight and decreasing fitness. The usual reduction in aerobic exercise results in lower functional capacity of the cardiovascular system, and the typical reduction in strength exercise results in both muscle and bone loss. In addition to accelerating the aging process, lack of exercise leads to less desirable body composition (more fat and less muscle), increased risk of injury, and decreased athletic performance. On the other hand, brightening your winter days with some sensible exercise can reverse many degenerative conditions, reduce your injury potential, improve your physical appearance, and enhance your sports participation. For example, strength exercise has been shown to provide the following benefits.
- Replace muscle (about 2.5 pounds in 8 weeks).
- Reduce fat (about 4.5 pounds in 8 weeks).
- Increase resting metabolism (about 7 percent in 12 weeks).
- Increase bone mineral density (up to 13 percent in 24 weeks).
- Improve glucose utilization (about 25 percent in 16 weeks).
- Speed up gastrointestinal transit (about 50 percent in 12 weeks).
- Lower resting blood pressure (about 4 mm Hg in 8 weeks).
- Eliminate or alleviate low back pain.
- Reduce arthritic pain.
- Reduce depression.
- Increase muscle strength (over 50 percent in 8 weeks).
- Increase golf club speed/driving power (about 6 percent in 8 weeks).
Endurance exercise also provides numerous benefits, with particular emphasis on the cardiovascular system. Consider the following physiological benefits that may be attained through regular aerobic activity.
- Heart becomes a stronger pump.
- Resting heart rate decreases.
- Resting blood pressure decreases.
- Circulatory system becomes more efficient.
- Blood volume increases.
- Red blood cell size and number increases.
- Oxygen transport capacity increases.
- Unwanted clotting potential decreases.
In addition, both strength and endurance exercise help people sleep better, eat better, digest better, feel more energetic, and eliminate unhealthy habits, such as smoking.