By Vincenzo Barbaro, Phenomenal Personal Trainer/Licensed Massage Therapist
Staying fit and well in the winter time has its challenges, and we all become susceptible to giving into the cold and hibernating at some time or another. Especially when the temperatures are sub-zero. It seems like a warm blanket and Netflix are the suitable choice for the time spent home away from work. We also start to crave those comfort foods that we usually either discipline ourselves away from or don’t even think about on a routine basis. Many times a chain reaction of self-destructive events occur when we hibernate. One bad choice leads to another bad option, and we find ourselves in a pit of poor decisions towards our health. When we deviate from our routine of self-improvement, we forget why we wanted to improve in the first place. I always catch myself falling into bad habits during the winter months and have felt a feeling of a battle with myself to keep on a course. That is until I found what my weakness was and how to confront it.
A body in motion tends to stay in motion. When you are laying in your cozy bed or are snuggled up on the couch watching television with your favorite throw blanket over you, the last thing that your thinking about is to get up and get moving around. Forget going to the gym and getting a workout in; you’re not even burning those calories from “NEAT” (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). Examples of NEAT can be everything from taking the stairs to walking to lunch. When we get into hibernation mode, it’s like we shut down. We wallow in a pool of molasses, and each step out becomes harder and harder.
The best defense is a good offense. When we fall out of routine, it’s easy for us to create excuses for missing a workout or eating poorly. If we know ahead of time that this is going to be an uphill battle, then we want to set a plan of action to combat this. To lose weight or maintain weight, our caloric expenditure, as well as calories consumed should be kept in control. The fats from our body aren’t going to vanish into thin air. Oh, wait, yes they will. Although some of the fat used as energy becomes excreted in our waste and down the toilet, most of the fat is exhaled out from our lungs. That’s right; we breathe out fat. It’s not like you can start hyperventilating while on a Netflix binge and start losing weight, it’s when it’s used as energy through our metabolic pathways. All those excess calories from those delicious Christmas cookies have to go somewhere, and when we hibernate, they’re stored as fat.
Weight loss and weight maintenance are great reasons to get up and get moving during the winter months, but what about your mental health. Without movement and social interaction, your mood will shift for the worse. Depression, anxiety, antisocial are just a few of the mental developments from lack of activity. Your body is no longer releasing those hormones that make us feel good and sleep well. The tolerance that you’ll have for pain is lessening by the day, and small challenges in life seem to be becoming bigger deals than they are. Without exercise and activity, our hormonal system can start to work against us instead of for us. The stress hormones increase, and we store fat more easily, our sleep is not that great, and our mood swings are like a neck breaking roller coaster ride. The simple fix for this is to keep moving and eat well.
It’s not exactly the thermostat’s fault that you keep getting sick. Although our immune system is on high alert during cold temperatures, the real reason that people get sicker during the winter months is that we’re huddled up indoors with each other more and are passing germs back and forth. What virus one person may have built up immunity to may not be the same case for another. Those of you with children know this hard truth when it comes to day cares and schools. Kids bring home some of the nastiest viruses known from sharing toys with another kid. When I first started dating my wife, her daughter was sick from the daycare. It was no big deal at her house. Just seemed like a common cold for her, but when it hit me. Oh man. I was out. I mean like out-out. I was sweating in a bed freezing at the same time for three days. It was like something out of the movie “Outbreak.” My immune system finally adjusted after a while and I don’t look like I’m in my deathbed after a common cold from the daycare. The immune system strengthens through a good diet and regular exercise but, in many cases, getting sick is inevitable. Knowing that hibernating is only going to get you more sick should be enough motivation to get up and get out there though.
Winter wellness is only difficult if you make it that way. Make sure that you keep up with your fitness, watch your nutrition, stay away from germs by washing your hands and keep your daily routine. It’s not always a bad thing to want to catch up on some Netflix and snuggle up on the couch but, like anything in life, it’s good in moderation. We want to stay strong and healthy on the outside as well as on the inside. Remember that a healthy mind, body, and spirit is a full-time journey and not a destination.