As snow falls, pondering benefits of exercise versus sitting by cosy fire with a good book. (File photo)

As snow falls, pondering benefits of exercise versus sitting by cosy fire with a good book. (File photo)

Column: Choosing hibernation over snow removal

The Great Outdoors by James Murray

As the snow continues to pile up in the driveway, I find myself more and more inclined to stay home – inside where it is nice and warm. I am content to read a book or watch a PBS rock music documentary on the television. Every now and then, I am even inspired to try out one or two of the recipes that I see on some of those cooking shows. The snow shovelling can wait until it warms up a bit.

I guess I’m just not a winter person. I am more than happy to sit around by the fireplace and plan the coming year’s fishing trips.

There are those who might say that fishing is not actually a sport, but rather a pastime. I guess it all depends on one’s definition of sport. Be that as it may, I know that any activity or sport that gets a person outdoors in the fresh air is worthwhile regardless of the season.

As for myself, I get plenty of fresh air sitting out in my boat or walking along the riverbank getting from fishing hole to fishing hole. I know I’ve certainly raised my heart levels trying to land a four- or five-pound rainbow trout, not to mention 250-pound sturgeon.

Both the Canadian Heart and Stroke Association or Canadian Cancer Society say that regular physical activity is one of the most important things a person can do for their health. Medical research has shown that no matter what your age, you can gain significant improvements in strength, balance, bone density and mental clarity through a routine of regular exercise. Studies have also shown that exercise can help reduce the risk of numerous diseases and health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, dementia and depression.

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According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Association, “the goal of an exercise routine, especially in one’s later years, should be the same as for all those young people – strength, cardiovascular health, flexibility and balance. Regular activity and exercise, combined with proper nutrition, cannot stop the clock but it can slow down the natural aging process. The trick, though, to any exercise program is to be not only realistic but also smart about it. A preventable injury can put an older person out of commission for a lot longer than when they were younger. No matter how old or young you are, proper form and technique are key to avoiding injury. Always avoid the temptation to overdo things in terms of both workout length and intensity.”

Exercise can quite literally add years onto your life. Exercising increases your metabolism, which helps keep your weight and blood sugar in check. Certain types of exercise also help build and maintain your muscles, which in turn help maintain balance, which help to prevent falls. Any form of exercise such as walking, jogging, cross country skiing, swimming, biking, or anything else that increases your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time is good for your health.

To me the whole point of exercising should be about enjoying life, rather than simply maintaining it, so I think I’m going to go and shovel the driveway, just enough so that I can get out, jump in the Jeep and drive into town. Maybe I’ll even stop by the fishing tackle store and try to take back all the ice-fishing gear that I bought just before Christmas. There has not been enough ice on most of our local lakes for me to even consider venturing out onto thin ice.

It would seem that a lot of winter activities that are dependent on snow, ice and cold temperatures are also on rather thin ice.

Quite simply, warmer winter temperatures, caused by global warming and climate change, are reducing the natural snowpack in many areas of Canada – the effect of which is being felt on many levels from sports and outdoor winter activities to the type of forest fires and flooding that we saw this past summer.

One of the best comments on global warming and climate change that I ever heard was a sports analogy – “nature bats last.”

I leave you with that thought while I watch a fishing show. The driveway can wait another few days.


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