Your Body is a Furnace. Turn it On!

IMG_1836Happy New Year, friends! Here we are in the dead of winter. This time of year can be a real downer for a lot of people. A good way to boost your mood is to get outside and fight the elements!

It’s not easy to tear myself away from a cozy spot next to the fire for an outdoor workout.  I usually have to talk myself into it.  But the benefits are worth it.  And the more I do it, the easier it gets. So can you!

With the right clothing, you don’t have to get cold! Put on breathable, moisture-wicking layers of clothing. Just be sure to protect your most vulnerable body parts: Fingers, toes, ears and nose. Those are the areas most susceptible to frostbite. And no need to shock the body. Warm up before you ever leave. Do some jumping jacks or lunges.    

I always think it’s going to be colder than it really is. And the truth is, you want to feel a slight chill when you get outside. If you don’t, you’re likely overdressed. But after 10-15 minutes of jogging or cross-country skiing, the body starts warming up and you can feel the winter blues disappearing.LilaLazarus_ColumnArt

Here are the top 5 reasons to bundle up and head outdoors.

  1. You Need the Vitamin D
    Unless you’re headed to the islands for vacation, chances are you could use a boost of the sunshine vitamin.  This time of year, feeling a little sunshine on your cheeks, even at below-freezing temperatures, can really lift your spirits and your energy levels.
  2. You’ll Feel Happy!
    If you don’t believe me, just try it yourself. Working out in Michigan in the winter doesn’t come with that heavy humidity we find in the summer. You actually feel lighter outside this time of year. Since your body is working harder in the cold, it’s easier to get that runner’s high as the endorphins start soaring.
  3. It’s a Calorie Cruncher.
    Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s harder to workout outside in the winter. But that’s the beauty of it. Working harder means your burning more calories. It’s the same workout you might do in the summer, but you get more bang for your buck because your body is using more energy just to stay warm. Your body is one powerful furnace. Turn it on!
  4. It’s Heart Healthy
    If you already exercise on a regular basis, taking it into the elements is going to strengthen your heart muscle even more. With added heart strength, you’ll be better prepared for the big workouts come spring and summer.  
  5. You’ll Get Rosy Cheeks
    One of my favorite childhood memories is sledding on the big hill near our house. It was tough dragging that sled to the top. By the time we came back home my cheeks were bright red. Exercising in the frosty air still gives me that same exhilaration – and rosy cheeks, to boot.

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By keeping your body strong and in shape, you can reduce the likelihood of illness, says family doctor Paul Schulz, MD, with St. Joseph Mercy Brighton. “Someone who is in shape tends not to get sick as much,” he says.

But winter workouts aren’t for everyone. If you already have a heart condition or asthma, make sure you talk to your doctor. The cold can tighten your airways. That could limit your oxygen and put extra stress on your heart.

And if you do get sick, the best medicine is to “go by what your mother told you,” says Dr. Schultz. That means getting lots of rest and drinking fluids.

 One last note:  When you’re done exercising outdoors, make sure to hydrate.  The air is so dry during these winter months and you don’t want to get dehydrated. Happy Winter!

Read more Lila’s Health Report posts

 

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