Winter Health Made Easy

Staying healthy can be challenging even during the best of circumstances.  It takes time, effort, planning, discipline and energy, among other things.  This time of year, when our excitement for the snow is quickly fading and we daydream about sunshine, healthy habits seems to fall by the wayside.  We want to curl up in a blanket and eat comfort food.  The last thing most people want to do is brave the wind chill and go for a run.  The good news is, comfort foods can be healthy, and it is possible to stay active without freezing!  Staying active and eating healthy, nutritious foods can also help to prevent winter sickness, disrupted sleep patterns and even seasonal depression.


Soak up the sun – Sunny days seem to be a rare commodity during these winter months.  Take advantage of the few sunny days that come our way.  If it happens on a day off, either spend some time outside or sit and read a book by a window where the sun can shine on you.  If at work, take your lunch break near a window or go for a quick walk outside.


Swap frozen for fresh – The quality and taste of produce tends to decline throughout the winter months.  Most of the farmer’s market are closed until spring.  Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great alternative.  They are healthy, reasonably priced, last longer, and are super easy to use.  Make healthy smoothies with both frozen fruits and vegetables for breakfast or a snack.  Put frozen vegetables in any soup or stew recipe.


Add in some grains and legumesDried grains and legumes such as lentils are an easy and inexpensive way to make meals healthier.  Add quinoa to basic beef stew, red lentils to chili, steel cut oats for breakfast, swap out white rice for a jasmine or basmati rice.  If possible avoid instant and processed grains.  To save time, cook extra to use in other dishes.


Change your way of thinking – You don’t need an intense 60-minute workout to stay active.  Find little ways throughout your day to get your heart rate up.  Avoid circling the parking lot in search of the closest spot.  Park further away and get in a few extra steps before work.  Always take the elevator and the long way to bathroom, copy machine, water cooler, etc.  When watching TV, move during commercials!  Do some jumping jacks, crunches, run around the house, tackle a few push-ups or fold laundry.  Get the whole family involved and make it fun!  Try to avoid long sedentary periods of time, especially if you sit most of the day at work.


View winter chores as an opportunity to be active – Snow removal often feels like an arduous task.  Decide to have a good attitude about it and use it to your advantage!  Shoveling snow or pushing a snow blower can be a great cardio and strength workout.  For those who use wood heat, cutting, splitting and bringing in wood is great exercise as well.


Create an inexpensive, at home gym – There are many different exercises that can be done using simple and inexpensive equipment like rubber bands, sliders and yoga mats.  The bands come in varying sizes and resistance.  The sliders can be used on any floor surface and allow for a wide variety of movement and exercises.  Yoga mats are great for many abdominal exercises including everyone’s favorite – planks!  These items can be used by beginners or experienced athletes.  Best of all, these things are small, so they take up very little room.


Bundle up and venture outside – Layers are the key to enjoying outdoor activities.  Use wool blend base layers to keep you warm and dry.  Hand and toe warmers can be used in your gloves and boots for added warmth.  For those who get cold easily, try an activity that keeps you moving like snow shoeing, skating, Nordic skiing, or hiking.  There are many town skating rinks which have free use of skates.


Take advantage of large indoor space – On days when it’s bitter cold or you don’t feel like bundling up, get moving inside.  Drive to the mall or another large public place.  Spend 30 minutes or so walking.  If the facility has stairs, walk or run them as an added bonus activity!  Go to the community center and use the swimming pool.  Swimming is great for you and will feel wonderful on a cold winter day.



For more ways to stay healthy and active this winter, visit us at Enhance Health.

Jana Montgomery, RN, BSN