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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Mind & Body

5 Secrets to Winter Health and Energy

Stay Healthy and Happy to Weather the Season

-- By Ellen G. Goldman, Health and Wellness Coach
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My monthly weight loss support group sat around looking rather dismal at the first meeting following an unexpected autumn snowstorm.  Winter was arriving sooner than anticipated, and my group voiced worrying thoughts about how they'd stay happy, healthy and energized—and continue losing weight—through the colder months.
 
Unless you live in an area that has a warm climate all year long, there is a good chance that you also face some health concerns and challenges during the winter months. The abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables during the warmer months make eating healthy easy and delicious. In the heat of the summer, we just don't want to eat hot, heavy foods or turn on the oven to bake cookies or cakes.  When winter rolls around, comfort foods, many of which are high in calories and fat, tend to come calling for us. Not to mention the myriad of food-centric holidays and festivities that take place from Halloween through Valentine's Day! Couple that with the thicker, baggier and body-hiding clothing in winter and it's no wonder that our motivation to exercise and eat healthy is higher during the warmer months of the year.
 
Warmth and sunshine are certainly more inviting for outdoor exercise than darkness, cold, snow and ice.  Cold temperatures and shorter days with less light drain your energy, leaving you feeling lethargic and even mildly depressed.  Individuals who notice these changes year after year when winter creeps in may even be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Once looked upon skeptically by the medical community, it is now a recognized disorder. Dr. Richard Friedman, a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, estimates that 9.7% of the population in New Hampshire suffer from SAD (compare that to his estimate of just 1.4% of the population in sunny Florida). 
 
Taking all of these factors into consideration, it's no wonder my clients were concerned.  I did my best to reassure them, as I want to do for you.  Regardless of whether you actually have SAD, or just notice yourself feeling sluggish during the winter season, there are many things you can do to alleviate or prevent the winter blues and stay healthy and happy despite the weather outside.
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About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen Goldman has bachelor's and master's degrees in health and physical education. An AFAA-certified personal trainer and certified wellness coach, she is also the founder EnerG Coaching, LLC. Through one-on-one and group sessions, Ellen helps individuals make positive lifestyle changes, lose weight, manage stress and attain work-life balance. Visit her at www.EnerGcoaching.com.

Member Comments

  • Martial arts work really well inside. All you need is a little floor space. A dummy and a baseball bat can do wonders for your mood, especially if you can paint the dummy to look like your boss. Or maybe your boss already looks like a dummy... - 2/1/2014 7:03:38 PM
  • Maybe it's just because I am getting older that even winter goes by fast, but I have also incorporated many of the above suggestions. I am a nurse in a family practice office and see a lot of illness but am seldom Iill myself which I attribute to lots of exercise and sweating during spin class, getting outside for exercise on my days off, eating lots of fruits and veggies (and adding grapefruit if I think I may be coming down with something) - 1/18/2014 12:15:04 PM
  • grammar police: its 'myriad food-centric holidays' not 'myriad OF'. Now i'm done being a jerk and I'll move on :D - 1/17/2014 3:24:52 PM
  • I love winter and go out in the snow all the time....and find myself getting sick less often than other adults. I don't use winter as an excuse to not be outside and I always make sure I'm drinking enough and eating a lot of citrus. I've had the flu about four times in my thirty years and have never had a flu shot.

    I definitely don't have SAD. I find summer far more depressing because I hate going out in the heat and am stuck inside on any 90F + days (thankfully that's not all of them here). I try to spend as much of summer as possible in the water..... - 1/17/2014 1:03:21 PM
  • Thanks for sharing - 12/29/2013 6:23:06 AM
  • ELECTRALYTE
    Oh yeah, that was a problem when I lived in Seattle for sure.
    Since I moved back to No. California it rains a lot but after the monsoon it gets gorgeous and sunny for a few days. Even on the beach!
    Good suggestions! - 2/4/2013 3:10:27 PM
  • Luckily I don't think I have any issues with SAD. I do have depression, but I don't really feel like the depression gets worse in the winter time - 2/4/2013 1:09:08 PM
  • Wow! What a great article!

    The sentence How about we slow down our crazy life of always needing to be doing something "productive" and engage in some fun and meaningful activities? really spoke to me because I am always doing something - laundry, cooking, cleaning.

    I need to engage in some fun and meaningful activities and be less productive! I give myself permission! - 2/4/2013 11:05:14 AM
  • Skijor! - 2/4/2013 10:27:43 AM
  • KEEPFIT2013
    Thanks for the tips. I just recently went cross country skiing with my daughter after many years (since the kids left home) and realized how energizing and invigorating this is. We don't always have snow here on the coast but my work is taking me further afield so I look forward to more fun in the snow!!
    I also agree that Vitamin D is important and getting out in the daylight for my walks. Lunch hour is a good time so I am making this a priority.
    Thanks again! - 2/4/2013 10:27:28 AM
  • K_STEFANIAK
    Great tips!! I have also found that maintaining higher levels of Vitamin D through supplementation helps me avoid the winter doldrums. I live in Illinois and we have one gray day after another so there little to no opportunity to get Vitamin D from sunlight. You can have your doctor check your level with a simple blood test and then determine how much you need to take. Keeping Vitamin D levels up can have a positive impact on your mood and your immune system. - 2/4/2013 10:11:48 AM
  • I never realized how much sunlight affected me until I moved to Texas from Ohio. When I was there, I felt like I was on a permanent high because of all the sunlight! Then, when I moved to Rhode Island, I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to handle the winters. Turns out this area is almost as sunny as Texas is, so even though it's cold, I can enjoy it because of the sun.

    Unfortunately, I busted up my foot doing too much exercise (!!) and now I can't go out and enjoy the snow and the mountains and learn how to snowboard with my husband. I used to love skiing as a kid, but since he doesn't know how to do either, I figured we could learn snowboarding together since we'd both be new. But now I can't do that, and it's depressing me! I want nothing more than to go sledding on fresh snow or sliding down a mountain with something strapped to my feet! - 1/23/2012 4:53:29 PM
  • I am so fortunate to be able to spend the winters in Florida where most of the time I do water aerobics outdoors along with walking and using an Exercise Room.

    - 1/23/2012 10:24:26 AM
  • I love winter. I grow organic vegetables all summer to sell a farmers markets. So winter is my garden's downtime and mine. We both refresh and regenerate. I love my woodstove and the warm waves it throws off, till I have to walk around in a t-shirt! I love pulling on socks, hats, boots, gloves to go outside to ice skate or walk the dog and watch her leap through the snowdrifts. I love sitting on the couch with my nose in a book while the teapot on the woodstove hums and the big flakes drift thickly past the windows. I love a brilliant blue sky with gray and black branches etched upon it, with a pure white blanket below. I guess about the only thing I don't like about winter are -- other drivers on the road! :D And before it's even over, my seed catalogues come and I'm already in the mood for the next season. Wonderful winter.
    - 1/23/2012 9:35:35 AM
  • AZURE-SKY
    Since moving from the Northeast to the Southwest several years ago, my SAD has drastically diminished. On the rare gloomy days, cloudy and a little rain, we get in the winter, I have noticed that my mood changes, and I don't have as much energy. Fortunately, those days are few and far between.

    I've switched some of the lightbulbs in my house to "daylight" bulbs. They are a starker white light, and really brighten the rooms since they don't have that yellowish cast to them. You can get them in flourescent to fit any light socket. Another advantage to them is they provide a better light when doing any type of close work, like knitting, crocheting or needlework. - 1/18/2012 2:58:35 PM