What Do You Do to Stay Healthy During Winter Months?

| 2/26/2010 10:05:49 AM

Tags: question to readers, seasonal affective disorder, seasons, health,

Woman in SnowA few weeks ago we asked if any of you suffer from the winter blues, and 55 percent agreed that, yes, the lack of daylight and effects of spending less time outside leave you feeling subpar. (You can find the full poll results below.) Even if you feel OK mentally and emotionally when it's dark and cold out — I love brisk, snowy days — it can be challenging to stay healthy physically this time of year. There are fewer whole foods in season (though you can help yourself out by drying and canning harvest surplus during your primary garden season), and it can be challenging to get outside and get moving as much as you might like.

To stay physically fit and happy this time of year I practice yoga more often. It can be done indoors and doesn't require a lot of space. Old-school calisthenics can be fun too (not to mention reminiscent of elementary school gym class). If it's not bitterly cold and the sidewalks are reasonably clear, I'll bundle up to trek the neighborhood hills, but those indoor exercises really help when venturing out of doors defies common sense. 

Food-wise, my freezer is loaded with veggies and fruit so they don't disappear from the table during the off-season. Protein and fats always seem most appealing in winter, so I make a point to buy organic meat and dairy and enjoy every delicious bite. I also include a daily vitamin D supplement, as the February sun in Kansas isn't sufficient for optimal D levels.

Somewhere deep in this Kansas heart lives a tidily bundled Eskimo who's never more at home than when the mercury drops into the 30s and lower, so my spirits don't need much bolstering this time of year — all that snow, gorgeous frost, and invigorating (sometimes bracing) winter winds. It makes my spirit glad. But everyone likes their comforts, and I've found that stocking a full cupboard and a variety of teas and keeping a stack of books on hand gives me the peace of mind that no matter what Old Man Winter brings, I can burrow in my home and when the storm clears, it will all come out just fine.

How do you stay physically healthy and keep your spirits lifted during the winter months?


tony deckard
12/20/2010 1:40:36 PM

I live in a mountain valley in WNC. Between gardening, to grow all my own food, butchering, composting, putting up critter feed and hay, and busting firewood by hand, I'm physically active year round. I usually get a break around the end of February for a few minutes, before starting early seeds.

3/13/2010 6:41:48 PM

I love winter!! I am a true New Englander (born and raised) and can't wait for the first flakes of the season to fly! I see winter as a time to slow down and appreciate all my hard work from the previous seasons. We eat from our pantry and freezer, then sit by the woodstove and sip tea while I scan new poultry and seed catalogs. We have the time to discuss the growth of our farm and what we want to try next. Don't get me wrong, I still spend time outside taking care of the chickens and running the dogs. I also look forward to snowshoeing and sledding. I enjoy being able to slow down. Experiencing the change in seasons makes me appreciate each one to its fullest. By the time March comes around and mud season begins, I am ready to see winter go (knowing I will get up early to check the weather on TV like a school kid waiting for a snow day off from school next winter).

becka schexnayder
3/2/2010 2:48:51 PM

What winter blues?? I wake up to get into my farm clothes and off to take care of the animals and do morning chores. One morning, when it snow, I was throwing snowballs for our dog to catch. I put up a lot of canned tomatoes and this winter was my first winter at making homemade tomatoe soup. Learn that I did not plant enough green beans and sweet peas last Spring. We heat with a woodstove and I get my exercise by loading and unloading logs, clean out the woodstove and walk dog. Durning the winter nights I crocheted two blankets, a rug for the kitchen, two baby blankets, and one baby outfit. Drank lots of green tea, and herb tea during the winter. My friend and I had dried several herbs to be use durning the winter months,and we visit second-hand stores to buy tight lid jars for the herbs. I read a few good books on cold winter days or nights, and now I am counting off the weeks to start my started seeds and when I can work in the garden.

roy fritz
3/1/2010 7:59:33 PM

When it gets to much of winter I write to some of our soldiers (I also have two boys in the Army.) I take three soldiers each year and send them a story for their kids. I write using their kids 1st names in the stories. Depending on their ages the type of stories they get. I'm far from the best story writer but ever so often I get a thank you back. I send them to the mother or father whomever is in the military and they send the stories to their kids if they like them. That way I do not have their home address for security reasons. A good wood stove, cooking with wood, and a good book are hard to pass up but just planning a winter of working on the house is alot of fun. Just living off grid back in the sticks is related to alot of work. Spring water, creek 20 ft in front of the house, hiking in the moutains, and watching the wildlife get thru the winter is alot of just plain getting ouside and seeing life as it goes foward as it struggles to survive. Watching as a eagle finds it's food at 4000ft elevation in deepeing snow is a sight that few others see. MntMnRoy

mary saunders_3
3/1/2010 3:43:55 PM

Too cheap to keep the house warm, so I have to do intervals, 15-, 30-, or one-minute sprints. I contemplate running toward chocolate or a favorite person rather than running away from the saber tooth (my over-socialized Maine Coon seeking constant attention). Sometimes I amble about working on coppicie and shlep the firewood to charge up my soapstone woodstove. Sometimes I schlep the 5-gallon manure/compost buckets. Sometimes I give up and go out for coffee. Actually, I do that rather a lot. And then there is beer, when I just have to fall into decadence. Thinking about it, yesterday I did beer and ice cream. One has to survive somehow. Inpatient treatment is very expensive, and there tend not to be many beds at this time of year.

3/1/2010 3:17:38 PM

I thoroughly enjoy hiking in the snow. Since I am stuck inside for the most part walking is great! My county has tons of trails. Just last weekend I went hiking down one. In the snow, walking is much harder but that is good for staying healthy and fit. You should go when it is not snowing. Snow on the ground is okay but if it is snowing I would avoid it because it can sometimes accumulate quickly. Pick a clear day and wear boots!

3/1/2010 3:17:24 PM

I thoroughly enjoy hiking in the snow. Since I am stuck inside for the most part walking is great! My county has tons of trails. Just last weekend I went hiking down one. In the snow, walking is much harder but that is good for staying healthy and fit. You should go when it is not snowing. Snow on the ground is okay but if it is snowing I would avoid it because it can sometimes accumulate quickly. Pick a clear day and wear boots!

bryan b stegall
3/1/2010 2:45:55 PM

I walk on the weekends. Usually, about 3 miles each day. You have to make the choice to get up, put on your warm clothes and go outside and walk! It is a pain in the A, but you have to keep in shape, or lose it. Bryan

jim johnson_1
3/1/2010 2:11:29 PM

Whiskey, drink lots and lots of whiskey, NO not really but some days it sounds like a good idea but then I quit drinking 20+ years ago so why start over?? :-) If you live in the country and are doing the back to the land thing you get plenty of exercise, dealing with fire wood, doing choirs in the barn, working in the shop getting things ready for spring planting and a million other tasks during the day, it's a great life plus you don't have any problems falling asleep at night, just think when planting time starts you will have even more to do for the rest of the summer, by the time all the butchering, sausage making, curring, smoking, caning, freezing, cheese making and woodcutting is done I look forward to winter so I can "take it easy"

3/1/2010 12:46:18 PM

As an ornamental gardener I have winter blooming plants to watch and evergreen plants I can clean up on warm winter days to pretend it is spring. Growing garlic or any other winter tolerant veggies helps also. Something green makes it less dreary. Having a pair of wild and crazy dogs helps, I can watch them wrestle or when I can stand the cold I can walk laps in the yard while dodging them as they try to knock me over. Avoiding them is good exercise in staying alert.

3/1/2010 10:54:50 AM

I loved this question on how I stay healthy. I drink lots of water, get outdoor exercise, and I actually do a liver cleanse during the winter months which entails drinking a detox tea, drinking water, eating lots of raw, organic veggies and fruit for one week which give me a huge boost for winter time. If even a hint of something comes over me I take a garlic citrus smoothie (sounds gross, tastes great). Our immune systems fight every moment of every day, when we get sick our bodies have lost the fight that's why it becomes a sinking ship (throw everything overboard) that's why the nose runs, the eyes water, coughing, sneezing, sometimes diarrahea -it's saying were sinking eliminate everything! So a powerful immune system is necessary to combat ANY disease or sickness - especially since we don't even realize how much it has already done!

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