1. Get Moving!
So many of us are fair-weather exercisers, which is great when the sun is out, but can mean we are really stuck in the wintertime. So, THIS is the season to make more of a point to exercise than ever, knowing that if you don’t make it part of your to-do list on an ongoing basis, it can be easy to adopt the old “it’s too cold/grey/rainy outside to do anything active”.
This is the time of the year I would challenge you to join your local gym if you haven’t yet. And at-home exercise can actually work if you are consistent; purchase some videos or download any of a plethora of free workout videos on YouTube including kickboxing, Zumba, and yoga. Have a bike? Then consider buying an at-home bike trainer: they start at about $150+ and they can transform your bike into your own indoor cycling class without the extra equipment!
Also consider making simple changes to your daily routine this time of the year such as taking the stairs to your home or work, and parking your car or getting off transit a little further away to make sure you get your steps in.
2. Avoid Sugary Drinks
It’s cold outside, so I totally deserve a sugary holiday-themed warm drink, right? Remember that hot chocolates and flavoured lattes, although super trendy and almost a staple of this time of year, can also be very high in sugar. And every time you consume more of that white stuff than your body is used to, your blood sugar spikes up high and then inevitably falls down, down, down. You have probably experienced the sugar high and subsequent crash before, right? Well the crash aspect can leave you feeling sluggish and hungry for more – you guessed it – sugar! It’s a vicious cycle that you are probably familiar with. So, stick to the healthy lower-sugar beverages you consume the rest of the year (water, teas, and if you must do the latte, go for a sugar-free one and sweeten it up with a natural taste booster like stevia).
P.S. My favourite low-sugar go-to this winter season: Stevia-Sweetened Hot Cocoa (2 tbsp cocoa powder + 1 cup hot water + 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk + stevia to taste)
3. Vitamin D
It’s no secret that most of us are not getting enough of the sunshine vitamin at this time of the year. As a general recommendation, I tell my patients to consider supplementing with 2000IU of vitamin D daily if they spend most of their winter months indoors or in a gloomy and sun-devoid climate. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so I would go for a liquid form rather than a tablet as it may improve absorption. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to low mood as in Seasonal Affective Disorder, lowered bone density, and lowered immunity. Talk to your health care provider if you think you may be suffering from any of these or other vitamin D related conditions in order to have your levels tested (a simple blood test) and determine what dose is appropriate for you.
Dr. Courtney Campbell is a Naturopathic Physician and co-founder of Aurora Integrative Medical in Vancouver, Canada. Her professional passions including working with patients on their journeys through weight loss, hormonal balance, and improved digestive health, stress, and anxiety.