walkingROBBINSVILLE, NJ —When winter blows in, you can pull the blankets over your head and go back to sleep—or you can suit up and head out for an outdoor winter adventure!  The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association recommends adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity—or a combination of both—each week.  Heart disease and stroke remain the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of all Americans, but the good news is 80 percent of these diseases are preventable with simple lifestyle modifications, such as regular physical activity and healthy diet.

With New Year’s Resolutions still on the mind, now is the perfect time to start or continue your exercise routine.  “Outdoor training in colder weather offers its own set of benefits,” states Travis Sample (National Academy of Sports Medicine) and Evan Williams (National Strength & Conditioning Association), co-owners of S.A.M.P.L.E. Fitness, a mobile fitness company that advocates traditional and alternative ways to incorporate fitness into busy schedules located in Bergen County.  “The body must expend more energy to stay warm, boosting your calorie-crunching capacity.”

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association encourages walking as a primary heart healthy activity since people are more likely to stick with walking than any other exercise.  Why walking?  It’s efficient.  "Just 30 minutes of walking a day can improve your circulation, boost your immunity, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and help you lose weight,” assert Sample and Williams.

Walking is also free, simple and convenient.  The only thing you need to start is a pair of supportive walking shoes.  There’s no equipment required, nothing complicated to learn and you can do it right where you are.  Run errands, walk the dog, take a lunchtime walk, catch up with friends or spend time with your significant other during an evening walk, or bundle up your kids and walk as a family.  There are dozens of ways to fit in bursts of walking this season.  And it’s customizable.  By changing up the time, distance, pace and route, you can create the right walking program for you.

Ultimately, you need to find an exercise that you’ll stick with.  Sample and Williams offer this advice: “Find fun ways to move! Keep it simple. Keep it interesting. Embrace anything that makes you move in a safe, easily repeatable manner. If you like to move a certain way, you're more likely to repeat it. Remember the ultimate goal is consistently staying active.”

Remember to stay warm and dry when heading out to exercise in cold weather by dressing in layers.  If snow or ice deter you from walking outside, try walking indoors at local track or do laps at the mall.  If you are looking for something other than walking, take advantage of the season and try a winter activity, such as snow shoeing, cross-country skiing or ice skating with friends and family.  As with any physical activity, consult your healthcare provider prior to starting a new fitness routine, especially if you are a cardiac patient, since exerting yourself in the cold weather does put an added strain on your heart.  For more information and tips on staying active in the winter months, visit www.heart.org/GettingHealthy.