QUESTION: I hate winter! I just get my exercise program going well, and the weather begins to change, and I hate exercising when it's cold and dark. What can I do that would allow me to continue to exercise during this awful time of the year?

ANSWER: Winter is a problem for many people, especially those who exercise outdoors. I am always amazed at the number of people I see walking and jogging outdoors on cool summer mornings and how few I see this time of the year. In our area, many of them continue to walk or jog but do it later in the day when the temperature has warmed up a little. With the weather as mild as it has been this year, you could continue exercising outdoors if you went during the warmer part of the day. Of course, if you work, you sometimes have to go early or not at all.Many people in our area go to the mall to walk. The owners of the mall have been most gracious in allowing people to come in early so they can exercise without braving the elements. This might be a solution for you if you live near a mall that is open. Otherwise, you need to dress warmly and go out in the cold, find another place to exercise or get some equipment that you can use in your own home.

There are many excellent commercial fitness facilities along the Wasatch Front. If you could find one that had the proper types of indoor equipment for your fitness program, you may just want to join one of these facilities. If not, you could purchase a piece of exercise equipment for your home.

Exercise bikes (cycle ergometers) are among the better pieces of equipment for aerobic exercise that could be used successfully in the home. They are perhaps the least expensive of all indoor equipment, and are relatively easy to use. You should find one with a large, weighted wheel so that pedaling is easy and smooth or buy one of the newer types that uses air resistance.

You will need to begin with short bouts of exercise at low resistance and build up slowly because pedaling uses leg muscles not usually used by walkers or joggers. I also recommend placing a fan in front of the bike so that the sweat evaporates during the ride instead of dripping on the floor. Not only is there less mess, but you stay a lot cooler during the ride. Of course the fan is not necessary with the "fan" type exercise bike, because the fan cools you as you pedal.

Some exercise bikes have arm levers. If the arm lever is connected to the pedal mechanism, you will get a better workout because you will use a larger total muscle mass during the exercise bout. If the arm levers are not connected to the pumping mechanism, it would do little good in terms of your workout.

Next week I will list and discuss several other pieces of exercise equipment that can be used successfully indoors during the winter. Hopefully, this will give you some options related to your problem.