Be well all winter

by Branda Polk

It's cold, wet, and dark outside and you're thinking the bears have it right: hibernation until spring sounds like a good idea. But, since life goes on in the winter you have two choices: don the cozy clothes, with warm blankets and consume lots of comfort foods or embrace the winter season with a "be well" plan. The former choice expands the waistline, increases the risk of seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D), and weakens the immune system. The latter option provides opportunities to stay well, fit and strong through the winter. Use the following suggestions to stay well all winter long.

Stay active. Inclement weather is never an excuse to stop physical activity. Your body, mind and emotional well-being are all impacted positively by exercise. Instead of excuses, make plans to exercise.

  • If your regular exercise activity is outside, explore indoor options.
  • Join a mall walking group.
  • Join a health club with an indoor track and/or treadmills.
  • Participate in fitness classes like kick-boxing, spinning/cycling, dance aerobics or Zumba. Find
  • something fun that will motivate you to go even when you don't "feel" like it.
  • Play an indoor sport. Basketball and volleyball are perfect winter activities.
  • Swim at your local indoor pool.
  • Exercise in your living room. Follow a fitness DVD or go online to www.workoutz.com for complete strength workouts instructions using minimal equipment.
  • Track your workout progress with www.freetrainers.com. You can download free workout plans and nutritional plans to help you stay on track no matter what the situation outside.
  • If the weather is cold but dry, cover up with warm active-wear, earmuffs and gloves and go out for a run or walk. The faster you move, the warmer you will be. Plus, when your body has to work harder to stay warm while active, you burn more calories.

Eat healthfully. When sun exposure is low and indoor time is high, a healthy eating plan is vital to keeping the immune system strong.

  • Since fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season, choose frozen varieties. These provide the same nutrients as their fresh versions and are usually less expensive and more time efficient since you don't have washing and prep time.
  • Avoid fried foods which are laden with fat and excess calories. Instead choose baked, broiled or roasted cooking methods.
  • Eat oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal is high in fiber and low in calories. Prepare it with water or non-fat milk. Flavor it with your choice of vanilla, dried fruit, whole cranberry sauce, chopped nuts, and/or peanut butter. Sweeten oatmeal with honey, agave nectar, or a "Splenda" type sweetener.
  • Serve hearty, broth and vegetable based soup for dinner. Instead of heavy comfort foods that are high in starches, choose soups and stews to fill and warm you up.
  • Ask your doctor if vitamin and mineral supplements would be a helpful addition to your nutrition plan. Vitamin D is commonly deficient in the winter and supplements can bridge the gap until sun exposure in the spring.

Be reasonable. Keep your winter goals and expectations reasonable to your fitness level and surroundings. If you live in moderate climates you have more options and less winter challenges than those in the northern, more severe weather climates.

Celebrate winter by embracing its challenges and staying well. You will feel stronger, think more clearly and reduce the risk of S.A.D. and other types of low moods by staying active, eating healthfully and being reasonable with your expectations.

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