Good-Vibes :Raise the bar this Winter
We all talk about getting that ‘to die for’ beach/summer bod and much advertising is based around this in the months leading up to summer. Even cosmetic clinics - both surgical and non- surgical - seem to do booming business as people line up, one way or another, to get that look.
But how about shifting the focus to getting fit and improving one’s overall health during the winter months, of which looking and feeling better are a natural result - the icing on the cake one could say (although that seems like rather a cruel metaphor in this instance!)
The benefits of exercising regularly during the colder months are often under-promoted when a) everyone is focussed on Christmas / parties etc and b) one often feels like hibernating/spending longer in bed / watching Netflix with a takeaway etc! But elite athletes across all sport disciplines and those who love to live a life of vitality and great health know what it takes it to stay fit when the temperature drops. It takes commitment and consistency for sure, but it doesn’t have to be a chore, and you can even start to enjoy it.
Right now we are experiencing a particularly cold spell across the country but why not embrace the elements - since you can’t control them (!) - and have some fun. Dance classes, ice skating, indoor rock climbing, gym, whatever floats your boat. You’ll reap the rewards soon enough with the positive effects on your mental well-being apart from the obvious physical benefits.
Let’s take a look at how your health and wellbeing can get a boost this winter.
Burning more calories
If you are training in colder temperatures you will easily burn 10-40% more calories than you would in normal temperatures. How? Your body has to expend more energy in the cold to raise your body temperature and this, in turn, has a great effect on one’s heart and muscles. Of course, we get this is not for everyone and the majority would prefer to be indoors, and that’s fine as well!
Your bones are strengthened
Hibernating, binge eating, TV watching etc might feel good at the moment, but staying indoors for long periods of time deprives you of what sparse sunlight one may have during the winter and hence reduces the production of Vitamin D in the body. The majority of people are deficient in Vitamin D, which contributes to bone health, mood and energy levels amongst other things.
People who suffer from Arthritis have an increased risk of brittle bones and they can actually benefit from regular exercise, even if it’s moderate like lifting some light weights, going for a walk and some gentle stretching.
It can be tricky in extreme cold but just 10-15 minutes of sun can produce a boost of Vitamin D. Eating fish and eggs are another good source, but supplementation is generally recommended for everyone (D3), especially for vegans.
It’s an absolute myth that spending time in the cold/ice/snow etc will make you fall sick, catch a cold/flu. Au contraire as your immune system actually gets a boost and you develop more resilience so long as you take appropriate care with the right kind of gear/clothing, and use common sense to not overdo it of course.
Also, it’s one of the best ways to banish the winter blues if there is a consistency with exercise and eating healthily (without the perfection of course!): hot nourishing soups/broths etc as well as hot drinks such as herbal tea, not too much caffeine as this has a diuretic effect and will dehydrate ultimately. Note: drinking alcohol during the colder months actually stresses the body far more as it needs more time to regenerate from the associated dehydration and stress on the liver. Even just 10 minutes outdoors can raise your energy levels, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a park or wood nearby as nature is always regenerating.
Some more tips:
Hydrate often- we often fail to understand the drying/dehydrating power of winter so make sure to keep sipping liquids even if you do not feel very thirsty.
Do not forget safety gear, warm layers and sunscreen- when it’s dark outside reflective clothing for outdoor runners, cyclists etc is a must. Choose footwear that has solid traction to prevent falls and of course helmets are a must for cycling etc. Essentially cover everything that can be covered! Also, wear sunscreen that tackles both UVA and UVB rays and also a lip balm with sunscreen as it is very easy to get sunburnt at higher altitudes during the winter/snow etc
Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia- frostbite is an injury to the body caused by freezing and most commonly occurs in exposed areas like ears, cheeks, lips, nose and also on hands and feet in spite of protective gear. Early warning signs are numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation. Get out of the cold if possible immediately. Hypothermia is low body temperature where the system starts to shut down one after the other. Exercising in cold raises the risks of this and older people/children are more susceptible. Seek emergency help right away.
Check weather conditions & wind chill- the risk of frostbite is less than 5% when the air temperature is -15C BUT the risk rises when the wind chill takes over. At wind chill - 25C, for example, frostbite can occur within 30 minutes of staying outside. Always check the weather conditions if you are planning a longer outdoor workout or any winter sport.
Merry Xmas to all, and let’s see 2020 in the right way!
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Author: Dr Amit Goyal, Aesthetic Skin Doctor at MK Aesthetics is also a well established GP Partner at a prestigious surgery in Milton Keynes with an interest in Dermatology and is the lead GP for Dermatology in Milton Keynes. He is also part of the Dermatology team at Bedford Hospital.
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Tel: 01908 766276