It can be tempting to exercise less and overindulge in comfort foods during the winter months, but these behaviors are linked to increased risk for weight gain, seasonal mood disorder (SMD) and chronic illness over time. As temperatures drop and snowflakes do too, consider ways to realistically manage physical and mental health without worry or stress.
Bundle Up: Layering up in windy, cold conditions can prevent potentially serious health problems like heart attack and hypothermia. When shoveling or exercising outdoors, covering the neck and face helps avoid direct inhalation of cold air, which may constrict the arteries and decrease the heart’s oxygen supply. Most importantly, look for a water-resistant, insulated coat and ensure gloves, scarves, and hats are staples in the family’s winter wardrobe.
Eat Right: Maintaining a healthy diet during the holiday season can be challenging; however, there are ways to satisfy a sweet tooth and feel full without overindulging. Watch portions and incorporate good nutrition into every meal, whether it’s vegetables, fruits, whole grains or lean proteins. Staying hydrated is also crucial for good health, and adults should aim for at least half their body weight in ounces daily.
Explore Hobbies: Combating the risk of seasonal depression and the temptation to be inactive can start with trying new activities. Read a book, start a journal, or take on a new craft. It’s also important to socialize throughout the winter season, whether it’s with friends or family, to keep the mind busy and avoid isolation.
Get Moving: Taking a break from your fitness routine during the winter months can lead to a decrease in cardiopulmonary fitness, not to mention a loss in whatever gains you made while exercising over a long stretch of time. When properly dressed, you can get a great workout outside, even in the bitter cold. If you're develop a real mental rut in the winter, try these tips:
Get Vaccinated: The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the flu has led to between 4,900 – 52,000 deaths annually between 2010 and 2022. Throughout the winter, keep in mind the importance of vaccinations, and where and when flu shots are available. Getting the flu shot not only protects you, it can help prevent the spread of the virus and protect individuals in our communities who are vulnerable to severe illness. Experts say the boost in immunity from flu shots lasts about six months. Flu shots can often be obtained at your doctor’s office, at your pharmacy, at a clinic, at your workplace, at your school and at a local health department. Learn more here.
Moisturize: The skin is our largest organ, so it’s important to take care of it all year long. Throughout winter, fight dryness by regularly using lotion or oils to trap moisture and keep the skin soft and hydrated. Regularly drinking water can also help hydrate from the inside out.
Relax: Taking time to relax can restore emotional well-being, boost critical thinking and reduce the production of stress hormones. Take time to focus inward and rest the mind and body. Yoga is one activity that offers mental and physical health benefits and diminishes symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. Shovel Safely: Studies show major snowstorms are often associated with increased emergency room visits for everything from muscle aches to heart attacks. But if you do it safely, clearing snow for 15 minutes qualifies as a moderate, physical, daily activity recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General. Before heading outdoors to clear driveways and walkways, remember to layer up, take breaks, stay hydrated and immediately stop if there’s any pain or discomfort in the chest, stomach, arms or jaw.
Get the Right Treatment: Despite your best efforts, emergency and non-emergency injuries may still occur. Luckily, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offers treatment options that are both convenient and affordable. Members can contact their primary care physicians for long-term care or use Blue Cross Online Visits to speak with a professional via phone, tablet or computer. Other options include a 24-hour Nurse Line for free medical advice as well as urgent care centers, where one can find non-emergency treatment beyond normal business hours.