Beating the Winter Blues

Author: Kelly Smith
Contributor(s): Jonny Bowden, M.A., C.N.S.
Published on: December 31, 2002

We've made it through the holidays and winter is in full swing. How is your workout schedule going? Once the cold creeps in and takes over we're not so inclined to leap out of bed and go for a run. Don't feel frustrated. The winter season tends to do strange things to our psyche.

In the early morning chill, I just want to crawl deeper under my down comforter and snuggle in next to my hubby as he hits the snooze button . After the initial coaxing of peeking my toes out to feel the temperature, I then go through the grueling ritual of finding just the right layers of clothing that will keep me warm, yet let me breathe, so when I sweat, the moisture won't rest against my skin and chill me to the bone. And those woolly hats, ooooh, they always make my scalp itch. It's enough reason to just stay in bed and skip the morning walk.

No wonder we pack on pounds during the holiday season. We are conditioned to spend time with family sitting and eating . After all, it's not like you have to fit into that little bikini this weekend. But the effects of staying sedentary because of the cold can produce more than just love handles. It can bring us down emotionally as well.

Some of us may get the Winter Blues, Cabin Fever or even Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD most often occurs in women and is known to pop up during the winter months. Doctors say it's due to the lack of light or disruption of the body's daily cycle. The most common symptoms are depression, lethargy, craving sweets, increased sleep and weight gain. The best ways to treat SAD are by light therapy either by way of a light box, which imitates sunlight or getting outside into the natural sunlight. Doctors also recommend exercise to not only treat but prevents the case of the blahs.

When many of us think of winter activities, we think of skiing. There are plenty of other activities you can do and you don't have to spend a lot of money. This year, you're going to embrace Father Winter in all of his glory. There are lots of other things to do besides just going to the gym, (if you have a steady gym schedule do not neglect it, just mix it up with outdoor activities). That cold crisp air can be invigorating.

Warning: the side effects of physical activity may include happiness, creativity and tranquillity, (which may or may not be caused by increased mood enhancing endorphins to the brain); increased stamina; loss of calories; a boost to your confidence and quality time spent with loved ones.

"I'm a big believer in bundling up and going for brisk walks, cold weather aside," recommends Jonny Bowden, fitness expert and author of "Jonny Bowden's Shape Up!"

I can't say enough about walking. This is a great activity that is not only good for you, but it is free! It can be done with a significant other, a group or even your kids. I like to go for walks by myself to de-stress after a long day. You can usually find a walking group in your area. Look in the paper, the Internet or better yet, start your own.

New to your area and looking for others to go walking with? There is a group called The Newcomers Club. It is geared towards women who are new to an area and are looking for activities to participate in and make some friends along the way. They have groups all over the world. Visit the World wide directory and hopefully a few new walking buddies!

Of course, man's best friend is always willing to go for a stroll and he/she does not care about the snow or the cold. Take full advantage of off-leash trails in your area. My hubby and I like to take walks at the nearest off leash lighted trail in the evening and hope to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Inspire the child within and go sledding, make snow angels or put on your skates and practice your Dorothy Hamill spirals and double jumps.

Get the whole family involved and go cross country skiing or take some snow boarding lessons, this is a really hot sport right now, especially with the younger crowd.

Even everyday activities in the winter time can burn those calories and give you a great workout. *Shoveling for 20 minutes = 99 calories, kissing for 20 minutes = 17.6 calories, sledding for 30 minutes = 174.9 calories, ice skating for 30 minutes = 151.8 calories. *This is based upon a person weighing 110 pounds. The more you weigh, the more calories you will expend.

Want to find out how many calories you are burning doing different activities? There is a great site called, "Lighten Up and Get Moving!" It has a calorie calculator so you can punch in your activity and it will tell you how many calories you expended.

Hopefully the benefits of these winter activities will convince you to brave the cold and maybe even turn you into a snow bunny. Do you have any creative ways to burn calories during the winter? Please share. The fun can be immeasurable and help you shed those pounds you may have gained eating too many shortbread Christmas cookies or helping yourself to an extra plate of stuffing. Good luck!