How to Stay Healthy, Fit and Safe During the Winter Season

The Winter season can be busy and exciting. With so many events like family dinners, holiday parties, and the preparation and planning for gift giving, we have plenty of distractions to keep us from focusing on our health and taking care of ourselves as we would normally.

Furthermore, once the holiday season is over, many people experience a lull in their motivation to stay active. Some people begin to experience depression or feelings of anxiousness over expenses that accumulated throughout the holidays. Others let diet and healthy eating habits fall by the wayside. Often, given the weather, exercise is sacrificed for warm nights spent indoors on the couch.

With shorter days and colder weather, finding the motivation to stay healthy and fit can be difficult. And that can lay the foundation for a weakened immune system, posing a greater risk of developing illness or injury. No wonder they call it the winter blues. What’s more, the colder weather creates a number of safety risks to us and to those around us, and some of these we may not even be aware of.

Recognizing safety risks and patterns of illness or low energy ahead of time is key to preventing them — or at least to dealing with them as they arise. There are countless winter wellness tips and ideas available to ensure you have lots of ways to stay healthy, fit and safe this holiday season and beyond. These healthy winter habits will help you to recognize where your health falls short and what you can do to boost it during this time of year.

Diet and Exercise Tips

While the winter season might increase the risk for weather-related injury, the biggest risk to our overall health is a lack of attention to diet and exercise routines. During the holidays, we find ourselves so busy finalizing travel plans, finishing up with tasks at work, buying and wrapping gifts and crossing everything off of our checklists that we forget to prioritize our healthy habits.

As if all the insanity of the holidays isn’t detrimental enough to our healthy habits, the chilly and unpleasant weather can also make it very difficult to find the motivation to get to the gym or head outdoors for exercises. In tandem with this, the additional time spent indoors means many of us snack more than we would typically at other times of the year. This combination that can quickly add on the pounds and reduce our happiness and self-esteem over time.

Maintaining proper diet and exercise routines is also necessary to ward off illness. It is estimated that up to 20% of the United Sates population gets the cold or flu each year. Wintertime presents a higher likelihood to develop cold and flu than during any other season. Here are some winter diet and exercise tips to show you how to stay healthy and fit during winter’s colder months:

1. Calm Your Carb Cravings

The cold season tends to ignite our cravings for more carbs and comfort foods. Why? After you consume these delicious treats, your serotonin levels rise, making your brain think you are happier. And as the day wears on, your carb cravings get stronger and stronger.

To counter this, try eating a protein-packed breakfast to keep your energy levels up throughout the day. If by the time the afternoon rolls around you’re still craving sweets or carbs, be sure to have low-fat and healthy snacks on hand. However, if you can, finding a way to increase your serotonin levels without food is the best way to beat the carb cravings.

2. Add Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are a healthy type of fat that are naturally found in many food types including fish, plant seeds and nuts. Omega 3 fatty acids are great for reducing joint pain and stiffness as they are a natural anti-inflammatory. Studies have also shown that omega 3 fatty acids help lower levels of depression, which people commonly feel during the shorter days of winter.

3. Cook With Mushrooms

There are several species of mushrooms that have immune-boosting health benefits. That’s because mushrooms have naturally-occurring antibiotics. This gives them medicinal properties, which helps us to fight off many types of illnesses. Next time you’re at the grocery store, be sure to stock up on varieties like white button or shitake mushrooms and add them to your meals this winter.

4. Eat More Fiber

Soluble fiber found in apples, oats and nuts is an important way to decrease inflammation and boost immune system function. Soluble fiber also helps reduce cholesterol levels in the body and aids in weight loss and protection against diabetes. This is an especially important winter health tip for seniors who require a high-fiber diet to protect their digestive systems.

5. Eat More Green and Orange Vegetables

Sticking primarily to vegetables and fruits that are dark green and orange is important in ensuring you’re getting healthy nutrients, sugars and fats. Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, squash, carrots and oranges are all delicious during the winter. There are plenty of recipes available to incorporate these items into your regular winter diet.

6. Cook With Spices

Onions, garlic, ginger and cilantro are the perfect items to add flavor to your dishes. Not only do they make food taste great, but they’re also shown to help improve immune function. Turmeric is a spice traditionally used in Chinese and Indian medicine. Its main active ingredient is called curcumin, which gives curry its yellow color. This spice helps to combat a number of conditions including inflammation and heart disease, and it acts as a powerful antioxidant.

7. Plan Your Exercises a Week in Advance

Try to stick to a weekly exercise plan so you don’t put off your regular exercise activities. On Sunday night, write down your exercise schedule for the next seven days. Choose your exact workout routines, activities or exercises for each day and how long they will be. Knowing what you’re scheduled to do each day ahead of time makes it easier to stick to. If you can, line up your workout schedule with a friend to encourage each other to stick with it and stay motivated.

8. Workout at Home

If you have no desire to head outdoors for your workout, then never fear. There are plenty of resources online that supply fun workout videos and exercises. These resources offer a variety of workouts including yoga, strength training, aerobics and other body-weight exercises. Check out Pinterest for tons of great resources so you can get fit in the comfort of your own living room.

9. Get a Wii Fit

Just like the online workout videos, a Nintendo Wii Fit is a fun and convenient way to stay fit during winter and have fun at the same time. This gaming device provides virtual workouts to direct the user through a number of exercises like yoga, strength training, aerobics and more. It can be adjusted to fit your personal goals from cardiovascular improvement and disease prevention to muscle building and weight loss.

These diet and exercises tips are great, specifically in the winter, but they can also be used year-round. By reminding yourself that spring will be here before you know it, you’ll stay motivated to provide proper attention to your body and health habits during the winter.

Winter Weather Safety Tips

Research has shown that more preventable injuries occur during winter than during any other season. This is due largely to the weather conditions we face during the colder months.

And, because we spend more time indoors, winter increases the risk of at-home accidents as well, including fires and falls.

Additionally, there are plenty of festive occasions and gatherings happening during the winter season. These events unfortunately present opportunities for dangerous behavior such as drinking and driving.

With much more risk to our personal safety and the safety of others around us, it’s important be aware and cautious. Here are some great winter safety tips:

1. Get Your Vehicle Inspected

Each year there are, on average, 480,000 injuries caused by weather-related vehicle crashes. Ensure your vehicle is deemed safe enough to drive in winter conditions. This in large part means having the right tires for your local weather conditions.

In many areas, especially elevated regions and mountain passes, it is illegal to drive without proper winter designated tires. In other regions where rain storms are more common, it is important to have tires that can resist hydroplaning. Be sure you know how to handle your vehicle if it does skid so you don’t lose control and put yourself and others at risk.

Another simple but often overlooked vehicle must-do is to ensure you have enough washer fluid. With more salt and dirt accumulating on the roads, it’s important to have a clean windshield for maximum visibility to stay safe during wintery conditions.

2. Plan a Safe Ride Home

There are lots of events and holiday parties during the winter months, and this leaves plenty of opportunities for consuming alcohol. Always plan for your safe ride home before you leave the house. Pre-order a taxi to pick you up at a designated time and place. Encourage others who are attending Christmas parties and work functions to do the same.

3. Hang Holiday Decorations Safely

When bringing out, hanging and putting away holiday decorations, use a ladder or stool in proper working condition to carefully handle boxes and decorations stored at heights. With the holiday lights themselves, be sure to unplug them every night and only leave them on for a couple hours. Unless they are LED lights, bulbs can get very hot and cause items around them to catch fire.

4. Fully Extinguish All Flames

If you have an electric fireplace, be sure to turn it off at night. With traditional fireplaces, it’s important to extinguish a fire completely before going to bed. Don’t leave the house with the fireplace left on or burning, either. Candles lit at night should also be fully extinguished before bedtime.

5. Use Heating Devices Carefully

We love our devices that keep us toasty during cold winter days. But space heaters, electric blankets and heating pads can cause serious house fires if not maintained and used safely. To reduce the risk of house fires, only use these devices before bed, and unplug them before you go to sleep.

6. Install Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

Unfortunately, the majority of house fires occur in the winter. So taking precautions to install and test your smoke detectors is an important safety measure. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning also increases with the additional time indoors, so ensure you have a functioning carbon monoxide detector as well.

7. Use Handrails for Stability

The cold and wet weather can leave stairwells very slippery and dangerous. To prevent serious falls which can cause severe injury, be sure to use the handrails and don’t run up the stairs. This is especially important for seniors who may have balance issues and can be seriously injured by falls. You can also set a good example for children by always using the handrails.

8. Salt Driveways and Exterior Staircases

Another way to prevent severe injury from falls is to apply salt to your driveway pavement and any staircases leading to your home. Reapply the salt as often as needed to keep you and your family safe from slips and falls. While most malls and shopping centers take adequate precautions, be careful when walking across parking lots as they may not always be thoroughly salted.

Following these basic safety tips for winter will ensure you and your family can safely and happily enjoy your holiday season and look forward to sunny spring days ahead.

Mental Health and General Wellness Tips

Above and beyond the potential for personal injury and the decline in fitness and diet routines, winter time presents another threat to our health. This time of year can cause an increase in depression, which may lead to a decline in overall mental health. Though many people may experience mild forms of depression or sadness due to lower levels of sunlight, there are an estimated nine million Americans chronically affected by the change in season. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and it is significantly more common in women than men.

When our mental well-being isn’t where it should be, we become even more susceptible to stress and illness. It is as important as ever in the winter to take a holistic approach to wellness, not only for our diets and physical exercise, but for our mental well-being, too.

Here are some mental health and general wellness tips for winter so you can stay healthy during the colder, darker season:

1. Frequent Hand Washing

Though it sounds like a broken record, frequent handwashing throughout the day is an absolute must in maintaining your health during the winter. It not only helps protect your immune system and prevent you from developing flu and cold, but it protects others around you.

2. Head to a Sauna or Steam Room

If you begin to feel yourself experiencing depression or higher levels of stress during and after the holiday season, steam rooms and saunas can help. They help tense muscles to relax which can alleviate feelings of stress. The high temperatures also get you working up a sweat, which is a great way to detoxify your body and your skin.

3. Take Vitamin Supplements

Consuming lots of vitamin C during the winter will help your body to battle cold and flu symptoms if you do experience them. Vitamin D helps to supplement the lack of light experienced during winter, but it’s still important to get out in the sun whenever it does appear. Vitamin D helps to absorb other important vitamins like vitamin A, iron and calcium.

4. Drink Herbal Teas

There are many types of herbal teas that can help you stay healthy. Herbal teas like lemon and chamomile can ease depression and anxiety by calming nerves and relaxing your body. They can also help you sleep better. Some herbal teas like green and Rooibos are great as antioxidants. For the most benefit be sure to look for organic teas made from high-quality ingredients.

5. Sleep Longer and Better

When the days get shorter, your body will naturally want to sleep longer and will adjust its rhythm to the hours of daylight. Use the longer evenings to wind down and begin relaxing before bed. Try to go to bed as early as possible to give your body enough rest during the times it craves it the most.

Many people choose to use light boxes that operate on a timer and turn on gradually when it’s time to wake up. This helps your body feel like it is morning. Using this method means that over time, it will be easier to wake up, even if it’s dark outside.

6. Practice Meditation and Relaxation

When you start to feel the winter blues, anxiety and stress, it’s important to know how to manage it in a healthy way. Going for a walk outdoors whenever weather permits will drastically improve your stress levels, even if it’s just once around the block. You may also want to develop the habit of deep breathing whenever you feel anxiety mounting. Meditation and mindfulness are great practices for managing stress as well.

Find a dark room to sit in by yourself and close your eyes. Relax your muscles, and focus on being present — emptying your mind of all thoughts.

7. Get Social

During the holidays, it’s easy to find lots of things to do. Local community Christmas programs and events like parades, tree lightings, ice skating and craft fairs abound. But after the holidays, many people start to feel lonely as the activity and buzz die down. This is the perfect time to reconnect with old friends. Plan dinner and movie nights or a day for winter-themed crafts. Organizing family game nights is also a great way to stay connected with loved ones.

8. Plan a Vacation

A winter vacation is a great way to shake off the winter blues and recharge yourself in a healthy way. Planning a getaway to a warmer climate will help lift your spirits and give you something to look forward to.

Even if going on vacation isn’t in the budget, simply researching ideal destination spots and browsing through travel packages will make you feel better. Hit up travel websites and check out the reviews on top hotels in tropical locations. Make a list of the top holiday spots, and explore them on Google Streetview. Then make a long-term plan to visit the spot that interests you most.


Planning for a Safe, Healthy and Fit Winter

Many of these tips are easy to implement in your daily life if you add them in slowly. And assessing your own health and well-being during the winter will help you to find your own areas for improvement.

For instance, if you’re aware that you lose track of your diet and exercise habits, then start with these basic winter health tips to keep you happy and positive throughout the season. Remind yourself of why you want to stick to healthy routines – it will make it easier and more fun to follow these tips.

Stay informed on the best health and wellness practices by browsing our blog. It has a lot of helpful health information to keep you healthy and well throughout the entire year.


12 Winter Workout Tips for Exercising Outdoors No Matter the Weather

1. Dress ‘Dry,’ Not Just ‘Warm’

The quickest way to lose body heat is to get wet. Because water is an efficient heat conductor — moving heat away from the area of highest concentration (your body) to the lowest (cold air outside) — getting wet will quickly leave you chilled and miserable. If you're cold and wet you may be more inclined to cut your workout short, and you also increase your risk for hypothermia (when your core body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit) or, in freezing conditions, for getting frostbite, Ridings says.

“Wet fabric next to your skin will zap your body heat and give you an unwanted chill,” says Jeff Galloway, a former Olympic runner and the author of Running: Getting Started (and other running training books and programs).

That means, skip active wear made from cotton, which soaks up sweat and rain and holds in moisture. He recommends opting for synthetic fibers instead, such as polyester, nylon, and polypropylene designed to dry quickly. “They wick away moisture about 50 percent faster than cotton,” Galloway says. 

2. Layer Up

Don’t stop at sweat-wicking clothes. You also need layers to trap warm air next to your body and keep out the elements (like rain, snow, and wind), says Brian Calkins, an American Council on Exercise–certified personal trainer and the president of HealthStyle Fitness in Cincinnati.

Here’s how to layer up for winter workouts: First, put on a thin base layer made of synthetic fabrics (discussed above) to help pull sweat away from your skin. If it’s really cold outside, wear a middle layer, such as polar fleece, for extra warmth. Then, add an outer layer (or shell) to protect you from wind, snow, and rain.

Depending on the weather, your outer shell can be a lightweight nylon windbreaker or vest, or a heavyweight, waterproof jacket. Note that the more water-repellent the shell, the less it will allow moisture from the inside (your sweat) to escape, even if you’re wearing the proper base layer.

3. Opt for Bright Colors

Black may be chic, but bright clothes are better for outdoor exercise. Not only is it colder in winter, it’s darker too. Poor visibility from rain, snow, or overcast or dark skies makes it tougher for others to see you. This applies whether you’re sharing the road with motorists or sharing the trail or path with other snow-sports enthusiasts.

Wear brightly colored clothing and gear whenever possible and consider purchasing reflective gear or blinking lights, Ridings says. Apart from helping others see you, wearable flashlights are great because they improve visibility for you, too, to help prevent missteps and falls.

4. Protect Your Extremities

Fingers, ears, nose, and toes are affected most by chilly temperatures because “blood is shunted to the core of the body, leaving less blood (and subsequently less heat) available to hands and feet,” Calkins says.

To keep your extremities from freezing, wear a hat or headband and gloves or mittens. You can always take them off and tuck them in a pocket if you get warm. Thick socks also help. All these add-ons should be wool or synthetic, rather than cotton, to help keep sweat off your skin. Men may also need to consider a good pair of technical briefs, underwear made from synthetic fabrics, or extra layers as needed, Galloway says.

If you find your toes getting particularly chilly, consider the design of your shoes. “Running shoes are designed to let heat escape, but in chilly weather the cold comes right in,” Galloway says. Shoe covers, which you can find at a skiing or hiking retailer, can help lock out the cold. You can also visit a specialty running store to try on shoes that are specially designed to withstand the winter elements.

5. Protect Your Skin 

Winter air isn’t just cold, it’s dry. To keep your skin from drying out with it, drink plenty of water (roughly eight 8-ounce glasses per day) and rub on moisturizing cream or lotion, Ridings says. He recommends applying Vaseline to sensitive areas like the nostrils, tip of the nose, and ears for more protection. To block out biting winds, consider keeping your face covered with a running mask or scarf.

And here’s something you might not have thought about: the sun. Yes, you can get sunburn in the winter. Even if it’s cloudy, UV rays can reach and damage the skin. What’s more, it’s important to realize that snow reflects up to 80 percent of UV rays, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, so when there’s snow out you’re hit by many of the same rays twice.

If you’re skiing or snowboarding in the mountains, your risk of sunburns is even higher. For every 1,000 feet of elevation, UV exposure increases 4 to 5 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Before heading out for a winter workout (no matter the elevation), apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to your face and any other skin that will be exposed and apply SPF lip balm before, during, and after your workout. And don’t forget to protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses, Ridings says.

6. Check Your Traction

Winter workouts can get slippery fast if any rain, snow, or ice is involved. If any of these elements are present, “Stay on plowed or salted surfaces,” Ridings says. Back roads and trails may not be as well maintained, and may have hidden obstacles that could lead to ankle or other injuries.

If you do plan to run or walk on snowy, icy surfaces, attaching snow or ice spikes to your running shoes will help you maintain traction to reduce the risk of falls, he says. But it’s important to stay off pavement if you’re wearing spikes. They’re designed to pierce snow or ice, so on paved surfaces they can impede balance instead.

7. Do a Warm-Up First

There’s no getting around the need for a good warm-up, no matter what the mercury reads. But it’s especially important to prep for cold-weather workouts. Dynamic warm-ups increase blood flow and temperature in the muscles to help decrease the risk of injuries.

“When exercising in colder temperatures, you’re at increased risk for sprains and strains,” says Debi Pillarella, an Indiana-based personal trainer and spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise. Think of it as like stretching a cold rubber band. It easily snaps, right? Warm it up, though, and it becomes more pliable and less likely to fray.

The best dynamic warm-up for you depends on what type of workout you’re doing. But for all warm-ups, be sure they include low-intensity movements that mimic the exercise you’re about to perform. If you're a runner, for instance, a dynamic warm-up might include bodyweight lunges and squats, arm swings, and core activation work, Calkins says.

And be sure not to confuse warming up with static, bend-and-hold stretching. Those stretches are best saved until the end of your workout.

8. Breathe Right

If you’ve gotten your heart rate up when the temperatures start to drop to the freezing point, you know it feels different from when you’re working out in warmer temperatures. It can actually hurt to breathe because of how your body reacts to cold, dry air.

“In cold weather, airway passages tend to narrow, which makes inhalation more difficult,” says Pillarella.

Breathing in through your nose can help warm and humidify air, but that’s not always feasible when you’re exerting yourself and breathing heavily. Wrapping a bandanna or scarf around your mouth (or another thin fabric layer) can help trap water vapor in when you breathe out to keep air more moist as you continue to breathe.

9. Remove Layers as You Heat Up

“The biggest mistake in dressing for cold weather exercise is putting on too many layers and not peeling them off in time,” Galloway says. After all, exercising will considerably warm you, and you don’t want to get ridiculously sweaty when you’re in subfreezing temps — leaving you at risk of everything from dehydration to frostbite.

As soon as you start to feel like your body temp is at about baseline, that’s the time to start discarding layers. “Remove it and tie it around your waist. If you get cold later, you can put it back on.”

Also, keep in mind that your exercise intensity will affect how many layers you need — and how soon you need to start removing them. Runners tend to need fewer layers than walkers because they move faster and produce more body heat. 

10. Drink Up

Some people don’t feel as thirsty during cold-weather workouts as they do during warmer-weather workouts, Galloway says. But you’re still losing fluids through sweat and breathing in lower temperatures. And you still need to replace those fluids by drinking water.

Sip water during your workout and switch to a sports drink, such as Gatorade, if you’re planning to exercise for 90 minutes or longer (and not fueling up with other energy gels or chews), Galloway recommends. But not overdoing it is important. No matter how much water you gulp down, your body tends to only be able to absorb three to four ounces at a time, Galloway says.

Not sure how well hydrated you are? Pillarella says to pay attention to your urine. “Dark, low volume, and infrequent urination indicate that you need more fluid,” she says. Conversely, clear urine with high volume and frequency may mean you’re hydrating too much.

11. Head Into the Wind — to Start

The faster you’re moving, the higher the wind-chill factor — and your risk for hypothermia, Galloway says.

To help reduce the impact and keep you core body temp up, make sure that (if you’re performing an activity in a loop, like running, cycling, or skiing) you head into the wind at the beginning. That ensures that, on your way back, when you’re at your sweatiest and have the greatest risk of losing body heat, you aren’t fighting the wind chill as well, he says. Keep the wind at your back and wear a wind-breaking layer (see tip number two). Let it push you forward.

12. Cool Down and Then Change Out of Damp Gear 

Once you stop moving after a cold-weather workout, you’ll get chilled fast. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to cool down. Whatever the weather, a cool-down is important after sustained exercise, Calkins says. “It helps your body eliminate exercise by-products and reduce potential muscle soreness.”

It also helps your heart take care of itself, Galloway adds. “Going straight from strenuous exercise to standing around creates stress for your heart.” He advises gradually tapering your exercise intensity during the final 5 to 10 minutes. Then, once breathing and heart rate normalize, repeat your warm-up and do some static stretching.

Then it’s time to get out of your damp workout clothes, which can suck away warmth. A warm shower and dry, clean clothes help keep that chill away.

Rate this item
(0 votes)
Last modified on Saturday, 07 November 2020 16:32

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.

Copyright © 2022 All Rights Reserved