Wintertime is full of change. We see bare trees, snow on the ground, and readings on the thermometer that we probably aren’t crazy about.
It is more than just a change of scenery, though. The weather’s natural cycle brings about changes in our daily routines that can drastically affect our health, taking us into spring with problems that we didn’t have in the fall, or at least with problems that weren’t as severe.
Keeping our health going strong through the coldest months of the year requires some careful planning and close attention to what our bodies need. It is worth noting that we don’t even realize we are doing many of the healthy things we do during the summer. We’re just doing what comes naturally.
Think about how winter changes our routines and how that changes our health, and then consider what you can do to compensate.
Lower Activity Levels
Whether we intend to or not, we all become less active in the winter. There is no grass to mow. Kids aren’t out riding bikes. A trip to the neighborhood store is done in a car instead of on foot. The list goes on and on.
You need a plan to compensate for your lower activity levels. Join a gym or buy a used treadmill. Adjust your diet to a lower intake level so that it comes into line with your exercise.
And remember that these changes aren’t needed just for caloric purposes. Yes, our sedentary wintertime lifestyles can certainly cause us to put on weight, but other problems can arise as well. People with circulatory problems need to be sure that they remain active and use anti embolism stockings as recommended by their doctors. Those hours sitting by the fireplace will feel good until they contribute to health problems, so make sure you can make up for it.
Higher Caloric Intake
Our diets change in the winter as well. Whereas the summer menu is full of fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of meat from the grill, wintertime is very different. The fruits and vegetables are out of season, and we start with Halloween candy before charging into a massive Thanksgiving meal, then through multiple Christmas get-togethers that all include lots of fats and sugar.
It is tough to turn down all of these foods, but we can at least establish some self-control. Remember as the leaves start to turn that you’ll have to start being more practical at mealtime and snack time. Go easy on meals through the week when you know a big feast is coming, and then make sure to get up and get active after eating instead of settling into a chair for four hours of TV.
The sun’s brief time with you each day until solstice is more than just the reason you’ll need headlights on the way home from work. The shorter span of sunlight each day can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in some people.
This is a condition that is more than just that general feeling of grogginess we get on gray winter days. It is a burdensome feeling that discourages productivity and physical activity, both of which can complicate the existing issues of lack of exercise and poor diet.
A good first step to preventing SAD is to make good use of what sunlight you do get. Open the blinds. Don’t sleep in on the weekend. Get active on those rare warm days and get outside. If you still feel that you have developed the condition, talk to your doctor. You may be able to use light therapy, counseling, or medication to overcome it.
Winter is a very different time of the year, in more ways than just the aesthetic. It can have a real effect on our bodies. We need to understand why and how this happens, then build a strategy for combating it so that we can enter spring happier, healthier, and ready to enjoy the return of warm weather.