The winter months are rarely kind to our healthy habits. The days grow shorter and the weather gets colder, and suddenly we’re stuck inside — often with plenty of delicious holiday food to tempt us into the kitchen. After spending all year trying to get back into shape (or simply trying to lead a lifestyle that supports optimal health), it can be hard to maintain enough motivation to keep healthy habits alive.
But restarting your healthy habits each year doesn’t have to be an inevitability. Lean into these three tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the winter season and all year long.
- Redefine Exercise
Running, biking, and swimming are all great forms of exercise that become suddenly less attractive when the weather turns cold. Fortunately, there’s no reason you are stuck suffering in the wind and ice to get your heart rate going. If just the thought of going outside in the cold or forcing strenuous workout classes feel like torture, it may be time to redefine exercise.
For instance, yoga or even stretching is one of the most accessible and adaptable workouts you can do — as well as one with plenty of physical and mental benefits. Whether you’re looking for something long and intense or short and gentle, there are countless online classes you can sign up for, both subscription-based and free.
If yoga isn’t your calling, consider embracing the season with a walk outdoors. Find a good coat and gloves and take a break from work to get outside. With daylight so limited, it can be incredibly beneficial to soak up some rays while you can. And although walking may not feel as intense as running, it still helps improve blood flow, reduce blood pressure, and boost energy levels by releasing endorphins. It’s also a great way to spend time with family or catch up with friends — social benefits you should not ignore.
Finally, don’t forget about winter sports. If you’re lucky enough to live close to some mountains, consider taking a weekend away to try out skiing. If you don’t mind the learning curve, hockey and ice skating are two other great forms of exercise. Or if you just want to keep it simple, find a good hiking trail and some quality boots and get outside. Not all exercise has to be sweat-induced or strenuous.
- Supplement Your Diet
Getting adequate vitamins and minerals is important all year long, but especially during the winter months. However, this can often be a challenge. As the days get shorter, our moods may suffer, making it more likely for us to indulge in unhealthy habits, such as excessive eating or drinking. Likewise, the annual arrival of flu season means it’s important to take extra measures to maintain our health.
One of the first things you can do is start supplementing your diet with vitamin D. Essential for healthy bones, vitamin D is produced naturally by our bodies when we absorb ultraviolet light from the sun. Despite this, most people are actually vitamin D deficient — a condition that grows worse during the winter when there is less sunlight to go around. This can make us more vulnerable to conditions such as osteoporosis and make us more susceptible to falls. Fortunately, there are many different types of food that contain vitamin D, such as fish, eggs, mushrooms, and dairy products. Try to work more of these foods into your diet all winter long.
The body’s immune system can also be supported by increasing your intake of vitamins A, B, and C. While your chances of contracting a cold may have lowered now that wearing masks and working remotely have become normal, you still don’t want to take any chances. Citrus fruits are a well-known source of vitamin C, but you can also find it in leafy greens, bell peppers, and cranberries. Good sources of vitamin B include legumes (such as chickpeas and beans), cherries, and beets. Vitamin A can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and eggs.
- Keep Sleep a Top Priority
Between the adjusted hours and the holidays, the winter months can strain your schedule. But this is no time to neglect sleep. Sticking to a healthy sleep schedule can make or break a healthy lifestyle. Good sleep is also a crucial part of both short- and long-term health.
Sleep affects nearly every system of the body. As you sleep, for example, your metabolism will lower so that your body can make repairs and maintain a healthy hormonal equilibrium. In turn, this helps control weight gain and ward off insulin resistance, which can be a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Sleep also provides essential support to the immune system. By promoting the development of T cells (a type of white blood cell), sleep helps your body respond quickly and efficiently to infection. Sleep even helps improve brain performance by maintaining healthy cortisol levels, a hormone produced in response to stress that can help control inflammation and aid in the formation of memory.
Don’t Let Your Health Wait Until Spring
Winter is no time to let your healthy habits slide. In fact, these months are more important than ever to keep maintaining a healthy lifestyle as you continue your journey toward optimal health. However, you do not have to do this alone. Our Precision Health Care providers can help you adapt your lifestyle for colder weather and keep you on track until we see Spring again (and beyond).
Schedule a meet and greet with a provider today to learn more about how you can reach optimal health.