Brrr – winter temperatures are right around the corner! Some of you may be jumping for joy, while others may not be so happy! However, most of us know that moving our body is very important for our mental health, as well as our physical. Hey, it’s even important for our spiritual health when you get right down to it.
Just how does moving help our mental health? When we engage in movement (and by the way, we were really created for it), our body releases endorphins which are hormones in the brain, and we’re in a better mood. If we exercise outside during the day (and I would only recommend short times outdoors, depending on the weather), we are also getting some coveted Vitamin D from the sun. This helps support our bones, muscles, and teeth, to name a few benefits.
In fact, during some highly challenging times in my life when I’ve lost loved ones, I made myself stop by the gym and hop on the treadmill, just for 10 minutes. It made a huge difference in how I felt – my depressed feelings were much less after just those 10 minutes.
We all know how challenging it is to move during the colder weather. It’s tempting to sit by the fireplace and read or watch a good movie. But if you’re health conscious, please try to plan some activity into your days. You’ll thank yourself for it. Think about this: we are warm-blooded creatures, and our  body works to keep its temperature stable, so our organs work the right way. During the cold weather, our body tightens the blood vessels, which means they constrict, and circulation decreases plus our blood gets a little thicker. So, our heart works harder.
While our muscles tighten up, it’s very important to stretch first before we work out. This helps warm us up and makes the whole process a little easier.
There are some specific benefits to working out when it’s cold outside. This exercises our body’s thermogenic genes, which means our body burns more calories. While I’m talking about this, remember to stay hydrated during your workouts in the cold weather months because we seem to use up water more in the winter than in the summer while working out…even though it sounds strange.
Also, exercise helps in building endurance, muscle strength, and increases our flexibility which lends help to the joints. Other benefits are getting a boost in our immune response, and we usually see our blood sugar go down and you can make better use of your insulin.
Here are a few ideas of getting in some movement more easily during cold weather months: we can climb staircases, put on some exercise videos and follow along, we can use an indoor swimming pool, and go dancing. There’s always indoor rock climbing. Then there’s kickboxing and jumping rope. Of course, we can always do some yoga.
Also please don’t think that winter is a time when you can just binge on your favorite junk foods! It’s more important than ever to maintain a healthy, yet delicious diet, including plenty of fresh produce, and take a few supplements to augment what your diet may be missing. Winter is a prime time to catch whatever germs may be out there, so be sure to bolster your immune system.
Remember – knowledge is power, so take charge of your health!
And, as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
Dr. P