Just as we service our cars for winter conditions, we can also winterize ourselves to stay safe and healthy this season.
We get that it’s easier to hibernate than participate when the days get shorter and colder. However, getting outdoors, staying active and socially engaged, eating healthy and sleeping well are even more essential to our physical and mental wellbeing in wintertime.
This is especially true this season with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to limit traditional work, home and play activities.
Here are some tips from top health experts to make the most of the season safely and healthily:
For many of us, the outdoors has been a lifeline since the emergence of COVID-19, providing opportunities to exercise and socialize while maintaining our distance from those outside our social circle.
The pandemic has also helped us better appreciate simple pleasures in life, like taking a scenic drive or exploring a new park or trail. Spending time in nature, anytime of the year, can boost our mood, increase our physical activity and improve our immune system to fight off illness.
Check the weather forecast before going outdoors. Bundle up in loose-fitting layers and make extra sure your hands, feet and ears are protected. The innermost layer should be made with a moisture-wicking fabric (not cotton). Add a water-resistant coat and shoes, plus a warm hat and scarf. And don’t forget your mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
Whether you are walking in your neighbourhood, or trekking up hills, invest in boots with good treads to help prevent slips and falls.
When the weather permits, walking, jogging, and biking are great cardio activities year-round. In colder climes, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing can be fun alternatives. Even building a snowman is a great way to get those muscles moving. Download a mobile app to chart your fitness. Drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration, which can happen no matter what the temperature is outside.
If the weather outside is frightful, bring your workout indoors. Follow a dance class online or exercise to a fitness video.
Cold, dry air quickly draws moisture from our skin. Keep moisture sealed in with a heavy, oil-based moisturizer. Lather it on every time you bath or shower or whenever your skin feels dry. Drink plenty of water and eat foods like berries which are high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, walnuts). Consider using a humidifier to help add moisture to the air.
Do you seem to catch every cold, flu, or stomach bug doing the rounds? Vitamin D enhances our mood and our immune system and ensures that our bodies absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus for building bone. Our bodies make vitamin D naturally when we spend time in the sun, However, because we get less exposure to sunlight in winter, we produce less vitamin D. We can replace this with the vitamin D that is found in the foods and beverages we consume, like fish, eggs and milk.
Fill our grocery carts with fruits and vegetables that are loaded with nutrients, antioxidants and fiber which increase your energy and help prevent weight gain. Bananas are packed with potassium. Sweet potatoes and winter squash are rich in vitamin A. And the clementine, a favourite holiday treat, is also great source of vitamin C, so continue to enjoy all season long.
Do you struggle with the winter blues each year? Watch for signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that happens around the same time each year, such as a down or hopeless mood, low energy, overeating, oversleeping, and social withdrawal.
Light therapy may help, along with exercise and spending time outdoors. If depression is interfering with your daily life, talk to your doctor.
One way to keep winter blues at bay is by adopting a Scandinavian approach to the season. Called hygge or Lagom, it involves creating a comfy, cozy home to make the most of your extra time indoors – good advice for those who are continuing to work remotely this winter.
Add warm, relaxing touches like fuzzy blankets, fluffy pillows, candles and mementoes of fun times with your family. This will transform your living space into the perfect place to curl up with a book, watch a good movie or play a board game with the kids.
The same precautions you take to prevent COVID-19 also reduce the spread of germs that cause seasonal colds and flu. Wash your hands often for about 20 seconds using soap and water and have hand sanitizer handy wherever you go.
Extreme cold, combined with unusual physical exertion, can be bad for your heart— and people who are normally sedentary are higher risk. Studies also show that heart attack rates increase as temperatures decrease. If you have to go out on a freezing day to clear the driveway, use a small shovel and scoop only small amounts of the white stuff at a time.
Do you or someone in your family have asthma? Then you know that winter can be a challenging time. Cold and flu viruses can trigger asthma attacks; dry air or smoke from the fireplace can irritate airways and the Christmas tree may hold invisible mold spores that worsen asthma symptoms. Avoid triggers by buying an artificial Christmas tree and cover your mouth with a scarf when going outside.