Winter workouts

Even in climates with cold winters, there's no reason to hibernate from fitness

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Elizabeth Vowell stretches after running, in Baton Rouge, La., Nov.. 14, 2013.

BATRON ROUGE, La. (AP) - It's tempting to just curl up on the couch all winter, binge on old television series and wait for spring.

But the state of Louisiana is blessed with too many mild winter days to quit exercising, says Jheri Bellard Corb, the fitness guru for the Baton Rouge General's employees.

"We only have about 10 to 15 cold days here in Louisiana," Corb says. "Just bundle up and keep moving."

The benefits of exercise during the winter outweigh the discomfort of cooler temperatures and the difficulty of scheduling a workout during the shorter days, Corb says.

Corb offers these tips to avoid hibernating all winter:

Make time for the sun

This time of year, it's not uncommon to only see the sun when it peeks through your office window.

But getting out in the sun can improve your mood and health, Corb says.

"Studies haven't established why physiologically," she says, "but exercising outside can improve your disposition and inspire greater commitment to an exercise program."

Sunlight helps the body's production of vitamin D, which strengthens bones. A lack of vitamin D was linked to depression in a 2012 study by a Delaware endocrinologist. Exercising outdoors also leads to lower cortisol levels, which can lower stress, Corb says.

She recommends that office workers find time to walk outside during the sunlight, either in the morning before work or during lunch for 10 to 15 minutes.

"It's one of those exercises that's free," she says. "It's easily accessible. You can walk with a friend, you can walk by yourself. You can focus on reflection or self-meditation. All you need is a good pair of tennis shoes."

Bundle up properly

Learn to layer your clothes for maximum comfort when working out in the cold.

You'll be warming up and cooling down quickly, so choose a base layer of a thin T-shirt - long sleeves or short - and add a jacket or another type of outer layer that can be easily removed.

Wear clothing made of a moisture-wicking fabric that draws sweat away from your body. These fabrics are usually wool, silk or synthetic materials made of polyester and nylon.

"You don't want to wear anything that's cotton because they don't evaporate the sweat fast enough, so your clothes can become cold and damp," Corb says. "That's a good way to get hypothermia."

When selecting your workout clothes, Corb advises dressing for conditions that are 20 degrees warmer. That way, when you get warmed up and start sweating, you won't overheat.

Work out while inside

When the cold just gets to be too much, or you feel the need to exercise during a dark winter's night, Corb recommends yoga.

Beginners' yoga classes can be found at almost any gym or yoga studio, Corb says, and online videos demonstrate the basic moves. Practicing yoga can reduce stress and lower your heart rate, Corb says.

"It's lots of stretching and concentrating on lots of breathing techniques," she says, "which in turn improves your posture and decreases cortisol levels or stress levels."

Starter poses include the mountain pose - standing with legs together and reaching toward the sky - and downward dog - forming a teepee with your body while standing on all fours. These poses promote better posture and deep breathing, Corb says.

In search of a tougher indoor workout? Corb recommends seeking out a personal trainer to find your fitness level.

"Everyone is different," she says. "They can recommend a safe training program."

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