For those who love winter weather, this season so far has been marked by outdoor days and weekends far more slushy than snow-filled.
That may limit the chance to ski, skate and sled, but indoor options abound for those who seek to break a sweat, burn calories or enjoy meaningful family time.
Regardless of the weather, there are no excuses this time of year to put off till May a health and fitness regimen that will whip you into better shape by bathing suit season.
“This time of the year, people experience more depression and anxiety, especially in the Northeast,” said Kelly Hahl, manager of health and wellness programs with BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. “Physical activity helps combat those things. If you can’t fit in exercise three to five times a week, even if you’re fitting it in a little bit, it’s better than nothing at all. That way, when you feel ready to do more, you’re at least in the habit.”
[RELATED STORY: There's a lot to do outdoors this time of year in WNY, too]
A University of Oxford study released late last year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that racquet sports, cycling, swimming and aerobic exercise boost longevity and ward off disease – in some cases dramatically.
Western New York is home to a rich mixture of indoor fitness options this time of year, including racquet sports, bowling and dancing. It’s worth checking with your health insurer to see if your wellness plan may reduce costs, as well.
Racquet sports are full-body workouts that make you focus as you sweat. They strengthen muscles, slow bone loss and help balance. Players tend to have lower body fat, better heart health and fewer problems with diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health. Playing for an hour is equivalent to running 2 miles, according to the online wellness site HealthFitnessRevolution.com. They also improve hand-eye coordination and – like all physical activities – reduce stress.
Gregory Maliken, 63, of Amherst, runs the developmental program for the Western New York Racquetball Association (wnyra.org). The retired National Fuel executive took up the game while a student at the University of Delaware in the early 1970s and has contined to enjoy the sport since it reached its zenith a generation ago. Maliken plays three or four times a week this time of year – “while I’m waiting for golf season,” he said. “I do it to stay sharp and physically fit. You can’t beat it for the price.”
LA Fitness members can reserve one of four courts at the Sheridan Drive location in Amherst as part of their membership. Guests pay a $15 daily visitors fee but can get a free day pass to get a taste of the club. Maliken runs a clinic on the courts from noon to 2 p.m. each Saturday for those looking to learn or reconnect with racquetball. Email him at email G_S_Mali@yahoo.com to learn more.
Other options include:
Buffalo Niagara YMCA: The Ken-Ton Family YMCA offers one racquetball court for leisure play or league participation. Use of the racquetball court is free to members. First-time guests can play for free, and must pay $7 for a guest pass to play for future visits, spokeswoman Brandi Banks said. The racquetball league is also free to members, and costs $75 for guests. Interested racquetball players must call the front desk to reserve a time to play. There are four racquetball courts at the Lockport Family YMCA, which hosts in-house tournaments but does not have a league. It is free for Y members to play. Guests who are accompanied by a Y member can obtain a guest pass for $7 and play racquetball. (ymcabuffaloniagara.org; 874-5051 for Kenmore, 434-8887 in Lockport)
.Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo: The Getzville location has one and the Delaware Avenue site has two; members play free and guests can pay $10 for a daily guest pass or $25 for a weekly pass. (jccbuffalo.org; 688-4033, 886-3145)
Omega Health and Wellness: Daily, 12-pack, monthly and annual rates are available to play on the three courts at this fitness center, 5893 Camp Road, Hamburg. Some of those rates include expanded use of the center. (omegaofhamburg.com; 648-5500)
Amherst Youth & Recreation for those 16 and over: A new session starts on April 3 and will run from 7 to 9 p.m. on some Mondays in Clearfield Community Center large gym, 730 Hopkins Road. $25 for town residents with town residence photo ID; $50 for non-residents. Register online at amherstyouthandrec.org or call 631-7132. This is not a league.
Rally Niagara Badminton Club: Several town recreation programs offer programs but you can stop for open play from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Wednesday and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sundays from September through June at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 875 Eggert Drive, North Tonawanda. Cost is $5 for adults, $3 students and free for first-timers; nets, shuttles and even some house racquets are available for players. (rallyniagarabadminton.com; 816-8764)
“Badminton is a great indoor activity that’s perfect on cold days,” Rally Niagara owner Mike Hacker said. “It’s a great social, recreational, fun activity and for those who want it to be, it can be competitive as well.”
[RELATED STORY: Skate, swim and more indoors in WNY as well]
Buffalo Pickleball: This website, buffalopickleball.com, includes information on dozens of places to play in Buffalo and across the region; click on each location to find out if the courts are inside or outside, hours of availability and, in many cases, the cost. One affordable place to play this time of year: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays in the West Seneca First Baptist gymnasium, 511 Union Road, West Seneca. The cost is free if you stay for a 10-minute Bible devotional at 7:30. Equipment can be provided if you don’t have your own.
Buffalo Niagara YMCA (ymcabuffaloniagara.org): The sport is popular in branches across the region and is offered free to members, Banks said. Costs vary for non-members. Here's the lineup:
Delaware Family Branch: Guests who are accompanied by a Y member can obtain a guest pass for $7 and play from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Independent Health Family Branch: Offered to Y members only 4:30-6:30 p.m. Sundays, 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:30 to 9 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays in the North Gymnasium, 2:15 to 4:15 Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the South Gymnasium.
Ken-Ton Family Branch: First-time guests can play for free, and must pay $7 for a guest pass to play during future visits from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays in the entire gym and 1 to 3 p.m. in half the gym.
Lockport Family Branch: Guests can pay $2 without obtaining a guest pass from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesdays.
Southtowns Family Branch: Guests accompanied by a Y member can obtain a guest pass for $7 and play from noon to 3:30 p.m. Sundays, 8 to 10:30 a.m. and 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, and 2 to 5 p.m. Thursdays.
Miller Tennis Center: Lessons and programs are available, though membership is required to play otherwise. Costs vary. Contact the club for a free tour and tennis evaluation. (millertenniscenter.com; 5959 Sheridan Drive, Williamsville; 632-8600)
South Towns Tennis Club: Lessons and programs are available, guests are welcome and memberships available. Costs vary. (wnytennis.com; 75 Mid County Drive, Orchard Park; 662-9396)
Village Glen Tennis Club: Lessons and programs are available, guests are welcome and memberships available. Learn more online. (wnytennis.com; 162 Mill St., Williamsville; 633-1635)
[RELATED STORY: You don't have to leave home to get a workout]
A half hour of bowling burns more than 100 calories, said Brandi Gratton, social media manager and party planner for Strikers Bowling in West Seneca. Three games equals a mile of walking and includes weight bearing movements that help strengthen arms, legs, the upper back and shoulders.
“When people play, they combine activity with a fun atmosphere,” Gratton said.
That mix can be good for you – as long as you spare yourself the pizza, wings, beer and soda.
Bowling centers dot the region and provide plenty of open bowling this time of year. They encourage you to call before rolling in. Among the stops:
Transit Lanes: 99-cent games from 8 p.m. to close Monday; $2 games 9 p.m. to close Tuesday to Thursday. (transitlanes.net; 632-3838)
Bowl Inn: Kids bowl free 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday; $1 games Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. (Find on Facebook; 824-9074)
Voelker’s Bowling Center: College students, three games for $4.50 during open bowling, League bowlers pay $2.75 per game anytime. (voelkersbowling.net; 876-6020)
Airport Lanes: $2 a game from 8 p.m. to close on Tuesday; several other nightly specials; $1.99 games till noon on Sundays. (amf.com/airportlanes; 632-0655)
Broadway Sports Center: $2 open bowling 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. (broadwaysportscenter.com; 684-6968)
Mallwitz’s Island Games: Download coupons on its website. (islandlanes.com; 773-0062)
Braymiller’s Lanes: Half-price bowling 9 p.m. to close Thursday (college night). (braymillerslanes.com; 649-1413)
Lancaster Lanes: $12.09 for unlimited bowling and shoe rental after 8 p.m. Monday; $2 bowling after 8 p.m. Tuesday. (amf.com/lancasterlanes; 668-1000)
Allie Brandt Lanes: $1 games from 9 p.m. to close Wednesday; $1.50 games from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday. (alliebrandtlanes.com; 433-5976)
Brad Angelo Lanes: $1 games 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday; Sign up for free $10 open bowling certificate on its website. (bradangelolanes.com; 589-5074)
Classic Lanes: $1.25 after 9:30 p.m. Monday; $1 games after 9 p.m. Tuesday; $6 all can bowl in two hours, 9:30 p.m. to close Wednesday. (classiclanesny.com; 873-3383)
Kenmore Lanes: $2 games Monday to Thursday evenings. (kenmorelanes.net; 876-6020)
Manor Lanes: Nightly game discounts evenings Monday to Thursday at Tonawanda location. (manorlanes.com; 875-8814 in Tonawanda; 691-6664 in Amherst)
Tonawanda Bowling Center: Discounted games after 9 p.m. nightly, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. (tonawandabowling.net; 694-4120)
Strikers: $1.50 games 9:30 p.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday, 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday. (strikers.biz; 674-1104)
Wimbledon Lanes: $3 for open bowling, shoe rental. (wimbledonlanes.com; 674-3333)
Alaina Zyhowski, of Lancaster, a Tuesday night regular at Swing Buffalo, describes social dancing as “exercise in disguise.”
[RELATED STORY: Cut a rug at local dance clubs]
There is plenty of such activity to be had in the region – mostly in social halls where those of most ages and abilities are welcome, dance experience is unnecessary, and enthusiasts are willing to give you a hand. The following dance clubs offer an inexpensive, fun and generally alcohol-free way to get out of the house.
The Oasis Dance Center: This Town of Tonawanda center features a variety of classes, including series that run from six to eight weeks. For rates and more information, visit oasisdancecenter.com.
The Belly Dance Academy in Buffalo: This Main Street studio offers classes that run from one to eight weeks. Learn more at thebellydanceacademy.com.
Queen City Contra Dancers: This French-born folk dancing style involves swapping partners in short order to Irish, Scotch, French Canadian and folk songs. It’s common for participants to take 5,000 or more steps per night. Participants generally meet the first and third Saturday of each month at the Unitarian Universalist Church at Elmwood Avenue and West Ferry Street. Learn contra dancing at 7:30 p.m.; dancing starts at 8 p.m. and runs up to three hours. Cost of the dance is $10; $8 for members; $6 for students with ID and free for children under 12. For more information, visit qccd.org or call 997-9423.
Verve Dance Studio: At 910 Main St., just north of the Theater District, the third-floor studio features hip-hop and fitness classes for adults and kids at various times Monday through Thursday evenings, as well as a Battle @ Buffalo hip-hop competition the last Saturday evening of each month. The latter costs $5 to compete; $1 to watch. Learn more at vervedancestudio.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weekly lessons: Martha Malkiewicz teaches from 10 to 11 a.m. Mondays, with a half-hour advanced class following, Unitarian Universalist Church, Elmwood Avenue and West Ferry Street. Cost is $2 per week; for more info or call 816-5049.
The Niagara Frontier Folk Dance Club: Focuses on line and circle dances, favoring Balkan, Greek, Israeli and Armenian forms, 8 to 10:30 p.m. two Fridays each month, starting with a lesson, at North Park Lutheran Church, Starin and Windgate avenues. For more info, call 759-6868 or visit sites.google.com/site/buffalofolkdancing.
Royal Scottish Country Dance Society: The club meets at 7 p.m. Thursdays from September through May at Amherst Community Church, 77 Washington Highway, Snyder. Try two classes free; for more info, visit rscdsbuffalo.com.
Swing Buffalo: This club meets on the second level of the Polish Cadet Credit Union at Grant and Amherst streets. Progressive and beginner lessons start at 6:15 and 7 p.m., and are followed by swing dancing. Lessons costs be paid for weekly or as a monthly package at a discounted rate. For more info, visit swingbuffalo.com.
WINTER FAMILY AND FITNESS RESOURCES FROM THE BUFFALO & ERIE COUNTY LIBRARIES
“Backyard Ice Rink: A step-by-step guide for building your own hockey rink at home,” Joe Proulx
“Diva Q’s Barbecue: 195 recipes for cooking with family, friends & fire,” Danielle Bennett
“Brick Cars and Trucks: Clever and creative ideas to make from classic LEGOs,” Warren Elsmore
“Video Games: Design and code your own adventure,” Kathy Ceceri
“Snow Sports,” Boy Scouts of America
“Made with Dad: From wizards’ wands to Japanese dolls, craft projects to build, make, and do with your kids,” Chris Barnardo
“Fun with the Family Massachusetts: Hundreds of ideas for day trips with the kids,” Marcia Glassman-Jaffe
“Geek Mom: Projects, tips, and adventures for moms and their 21st-Century families,” Natania Barron
“Let’s Go Outside!: Outdoor activities and projects to get you and your kids closer to nature,” Jennifer Ward
For more information, visit buffalolib.org.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon