Consider bears. They eat a lot in the autumn — up to 20,000 calories daily, gaining three pounds a day! This is followed by lying still for several months over the winter. Although bears don’t technically hibernate, they remain in a reduced metabolic state for several months.
This may be fine if you live in Yellowstone National Park, but you have a job, a career and a family. How can you be less bearlike and vault into spring healthy and energetic?
A large amount of winter wellness is common sense. Along with planning for retirement and sales goals, it makes sense for everyone to also have a plan for winter wellness.
Back to those bears who are consuming about 20,000 calories a day. We all go on eating binges between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s about five weeks! We attend holiday parties. We have dinner with friends. We drink more than usual.
We need to eat smarter. The website Pinnaclehealth.org shares many food-related tips for winter wellness. A key rule is to dispense with comfort foods and focus on foods that are good for your body during the cold winter months. They suggest starting with a breakfast packed with protein.
Seven ounces of Greek yogurt have about 20 grams of protein. How about cottage cheese instead? Half a cup has 14 grams, the same as two ounces of turkey sausage. Prefer eggs? Two large ones have 13 grams. Vegan options such as quinoa, tofu, tempeh and nut butters also pack a protein punch.
If you are feeling a slump when the afternoon rolls around, have some low-fat, healthy snacks nearby. Examples are apple slices with peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs or roasted almonds with dried cherries.
The folks at Pinnacle Health also suggest foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids. If you are already a fan of salmon and tuna, eat more of them. Seeds and nuts are another good source. Did I mention pumpkin seeds as an afternoon snack?
Many of the foods we associate with fall and winter supplement your diet and promote winter wellness. Mushrooms, an ideal cooking ingredient, contain natural antibiotics. Mushrooms can boost your immune system. Carrots are a traditional root vegetable. Spinach, kale and Swiss chard add healthy nutrients to your diet.
Add more soluble fiber to your diet. Apples, oats and nuts are great sources. They also fit into the rhythm of the season. Oatmeal is an ideal winter breakfast food. Soluble fiber has three things going for it: It reduces cholesterol, aids in weight loss and helps protect against diabetes.
Sometimes, we need a little help. Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant. You get vitamin C from eating oranges. At 100 mg of vitamin C in each orange, you would need to eat five a day to get the same amount you would get from taking one 500 mg tablet.
Winter means less sunlight. Dec. 21 is the shortest day of the year. In the Northeast, we get about nine hours of sunlight on that day. On the longest day, usually June 21, we get about 17 hours of sunlight. Sunlight provides vitamin D. It’s obvious we are getting less vitamin D in the winter, coupled with the obvious fact we stay indoors most of the time. We need more vitamin D. That’s another supplement to consider taking to stay healthy.
Every runner and every gym rat knows we are supposed to stay hydrated. This counts for wintertime, too. Drink more water.
It’s tempting to become a couch potato during the winter. If you have an exercise routine, keep it up. If not, get one started. It’s an excellent New
Year’s resolution. Most people should get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. You have several options for winter exercising.
Exercising outdoors keeps you away from other people’s germs at least part of the day. You might run. You might belong to a boot camp group. Generally speaking, there’s not a lot of expense connected with outdoor exercise.
Get a workout buddy and plan to get to the gym regularly. Personally, I’m a 5:30 a.m. guy. It gets it out of the way. When you have a partner for working out, it gives you more accountability to showing up. When you are part of a group of regulars, you encourage each other. Pinnacle Health suggests planning your week’s worth of workouts in advance on Sunday. This way, you aren’t turning up at the gym, wondering “What should I do today?” and strolling at a leisurely pace on the treadmill.
There are days when you don’t want to go to the gym. It’s dark, rainy and icy outside. You want to stay home. These are times when getting on the exercise bike makes sense. Doesn’t everyone have one? If not, a quick internet search will show you plenty of exercises you can do at home without exercise equipment.
Many of us gym regulars get in, do our workouts and leave. The object is to get sweaty because it helps your body detoxify. There are a couple more options you’ve likely overlooked. Many gyms have a sauna and a steam room. That gets you sweating. It opens the pores. It also relaxes tense muscles.
Everyone knows we shouldn’t overdo exercise. Most people I know at the gym listen to their bodies. They know when to rest or when they’ve been doing too much.
Then eight inches of snow gets deposited in your driveway. You say, “I’ll get out there and shovel it now.” Snow shoveling increases your blood pressure and heart rate. Meanwhile, the cold air is causing constriction of blood vessels and decreasing oxygen to your heart. Yes, this is a recipe for a heart attack.
The snow may need to be shoveled, but listen to your body and know your limitations. Sometimes clearing snow can be like shoveling feathers. Trying to move wet snow is like shoveling cement.
If you have taken a cruise recently, you know the ship’s staff gets you to clean your hands with disinfectant at every opportunity. This makes sense when you are home, too. Wash your hands regularly. Assuming someone has a cold, they are likely spreading germs when they touch doorknobs. If your child attends elementary school or a day care center, there’s the risk of germs coming home with them. There’s only a limited amount you can do about this, but washing your hands frequently is a good step toward fighting illness.
Back to those bears in Yellowstone. It’s tempting to change your rhythm, going to sleep when the sun goes down. In late December, if you slept from sundown to sunrise, you would be sleeping 15 hours! Try to keep to your regular sleep schedule, getting the seven or eight hours of sleep your body wants. You might be getting up in the dark, but your body will appreciate being kept on a schedule.
It’s easy to get depressed in the wintertime. It’s good to have something fun on the horizon. Pinnacle Health suggests winter is a good time to research the vacation you plan to take later in the year. It gives you something to look forward to!
Most people put lots of effort into organizing holidays. It’s been said people spend more time planning a two-week vacation than they do planning for their own retirement.
It’s your job to help people like that. That’s why you need to stay healthy during the winter.