For most of us, right now it is winter. Winter means cold weather, slippery roads, snowy sidewalks, inclement weather, and cold and flu weather.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. I live in Pittsburgh, Pa. We have cold weather and get snow every winter. It doesn’t get frigid here, like it does in North Dakota or Canada or Alaska, but we always have a stretch of 0 degree or negative temperatures throughout the winter.
I have always been of the opinion that if I am going to live in a cold weather climate, then I might as well do what I can to enjoy the cold weather.
I feel that getting outside during the winter can actually help you to get sick less often than if you don’t go outside. I read an article that said that since we are closed up inside all day throughout the winter, breathing recycled air in such close quarters with everyone else, germs are transmitted a lot easier than they are throughout the rest of the year.
When it is warm out we have the windows open and we are breathing fresh air. If someone is coughing next to us we can open a window near us to get fresh air in. In general the more fresh air you breathe, the better off you are. Getting outside to breathe fresh air will help to keep you healthy and feeling good. Even if it is cold air, you can get used to it.
The main exception to this is if you have a respiratory illness. If you have trouble breathing, then the cold air can make it harder to breathe. When you breathe air in, your lungs have to covert that air to mist in order to absorb the oxygen from it. The colder the air, the harder it is to warm the air up to convert it to mist.
In general though, the more you expose yourself to the cold air, the more you adapt to it and the less it bothers you. I bike throughout the winter. The proper clothing along with chemical hand and foot warmers allow my limit to be 5 degrees. I have found for myself that if it is colder than 5 degrees then I just can’t get warm while riding my bike. I could hike in those temperatures, but biking gets little too cold. I have friends though who do bike in colder weather than that.
Yesterday my wife and I cross country skied for 4 hours straight in 15 degree weather. We then went skiing for a few hours with our children in the same weather. We were fine. We certainly got cold towards the end, and we had a few moments of getting chilled, but overall we were fine. We dressed appropriately and kept moving, and we were very comfortable for most of the day.
When you do aerobic activity when it is cold out, it is amazing how warm it can keep you. My wife and I snow shoe hike as well. It is a great feeling to sweat in 10 degree weather.
As long as you dress appropriately, you can be very comfortable going for an hour long walk in the winter. The clothes that are made now are made to keep you warm and insulated and allow sweat and moisture to breathe out of the clothing. If you layer your clothing you will stay amazingly warm. Especially when exerting yourself like when you do aerobic activity outside. You exert yourself while performing aerobic activity, and this exertion keeps you comfortable and warm.
You do have to be careful of the snow and ice. But you can buy different types of traction and grips that easily strap to the bottom of your shoes. I have seen them called “yak-tracks” and other names. The principle is that they are thick rubber bands with metal studs in them. You strap these to the bottom of your shoes and the studs stick in the snow and ice to give you traction, and prevent you from slipping.
It is very important for many reasons to keep yourself active throughout the winter. If you stop exercising for a few months you will lose conditioning. It is easier to lose conditioning than it is to gain it. As you age you lose conditioning faster than you did when you were younger.
If you are sedentary throughout the winter months you will have a hard time getting back into activity when the warmer weather rolls around. The older you get the harder that adjustment becomes. The harder the adjustment back to activity becomes, the more likely you are to injure yourself while doing it. The more likely you will be to injure yourself in the spring when you become active again.
It is also good for you to get outside and breathe fresh air. Breathing fresh air can help to increase anti-oxidant levels. When you are in the middle of the woods or a forest breathing in all of that fresh oxygen that is produced by the trees it is so good for you.
I had an uncle who lived to be age 95. Up until 3 weeks before he died he was walking 2 miles each day. He was an avid fisherman. He loved to fly fish. Fly fishing is physically very tough and can be very hard to do. It is an active form of fishing. For the last few years of his life I fished with him. It was amazing to see this 93 year old man wading through streams and crawling over logs. He said that part of what kept him so healthy and active for so long was breathing the fresh mountain air. I believe he had something with that.
Trees produce fresh oxygen. Therefore the air surrounding many trees (like in a forest) is fresh and pure. Much cleaner than the polluted and recycled air you breathe in a city. I feel that the fresh air in the mountains has more anti-oxidants in it and therefore can actually help you heal by destroying some free radicals in your body.
Even if you can’t get outside or to the fresh air in the mountains, exercising indoors throughout the winter is essential. It is essential if you want to stay in shape and be able to enjoy the upcoming warmer weather.
I feel that at least part of the reason why people get seasonal mood disorder, or depressed in the winter, is because they aren’t moving around. They aren’t going outside. They aren’t exercising. There are certainly many other factors that will affect this disorder. But if you get down or depressed in the winter, exercising and eating right will help to elevate your mood.
Throughout the winter months it gets harder to get our normal amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. In the colder climates it becomes impossible to get local, freshly grown fruits and vegetables. But you can still get fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Eating a healthy diet will aid in preventing sickness and help keep your immune system strong and functional.
Eating healthy and exercising go hand in hand. They both help to keep you healthy, keep you feeling good, and prevent illness. If the winter comes and you stop exercising and also stop eating right (stopping one usually precedes stopping the other), you can get from being in good shape at the beginning of the winter to being in bad shape and deconditioned by the end of the winter.
Don’t let this happen to you. Keep yourself active throughout the cold, dark winter months. You will be happier, more active, in less pain and be less injury prone.
Keeping yourself active, happier, and in less pain through consistent and intelligent exercising and proper nutrition is the Pain Free way.