Wow, what an Antarctic blast. We’re never ready for it. Winter is always a shock to our system. Coats and jumpers are dug out of the closet and ‘where the hell is our umbrella?’. When you live in an environment like Australia, with ranging weather extremes, you must be ready for anything, and most people are not. Hello Winter, goodbye warmth!
As an Osteopath from the UK, or as close Aussie friends and patients lovingly call me ‘the whinging Pom’, I am quite at home with a varying year-round temperature. Quite rightly, as it’s always damp and cold in the UK. Which begs the question, how have we Poms survived these winters by staying healthy, without dying?
In my work, I study the structure and function of the human body and how the musculoskeletal system works. My work requires me to understand how the human body relates to other systems (respiration, neurological, digestion etc.) and affords me some great tips on staying healthy during Winter. Here’s my top tips:
Increase your internal temperature, wrap up warm and walk. Being fit boosts your tolerance in cold weather, plus exercise pushes blood to the peripheries where it’s needed most to keep us warm.
Shivering is one of the first defences against cold, and as skeletal muscle fatigues, there is an increased reliance on non-shivering body systems, which leads to further body reserves. Exercise has long been shown to reduce fatigue and improve the temperature of the body.
Allow yourself to shiver, it actually takes the stress from the whole body, believe it or not!
Proper layering techniques can help you make the most of your cold weather clothing and prevent dangerous exposure.
Layering correctly will help maintain your core body heat and protect you from the cold air. In other words, don’t wear the puffer over a t-shirt, it’s not good for you. Look at long sleeves and jumpers and then a jacket. This is a better way to keep warm.
Soups are a fantastic sustenance for Winter. The combination of food ingredients cooked in a slow way is a great source of healthy energy.
Soups are not only high on nutritional value (the healthy compounds) but have under-the-surface benefits. They boost immune systems, keep you hydrated, and some are even meant to help fight disease.
Chicken soup, Tom Yum Gung, Gazpacho and Nigerian Pepper soups to name a few, are great soups to help keep you healthy through the year and not just in winter.
Hydration is key, we still sweat in our layers and in heated houses, so we need to keep our water intake up.
Those end-of-day headaches are normally down to lack of fluid intake, so make sure you drink enough, before that glass of wine at night. In fact, we all know alcohol is a dehydrator, so try not to drink the bottle.
Coffee is considered to have diuretic properties, which in turn means dehydration of the body. Therefore, non-caffeinated herbal teas are a great Winter warmer especially ginger, cinnamon and peppermint.
Yes, I said a cold shower (heard of Wim Hoff?). A cold shower to “cool off” might seem like a good immediate choice, however, we feel cooler because of the combination of the cold water and the decreased blood flow to the skin, but in fact, our core will get warmer because of reduced heat loss from the body without skin blood flow.
Some minutes later, we feel hot again. To relieve muscle tension, promote blood circulation, boost immunity, remove toxins from the body, and reduce stress – cold bathing has proven beneficial. Moreover, bathing with cold water in winter is more helpful than with hot water, plus think of all that energy you’re saving during the energy crisis by not heating up water.
Not just for the cool kids, but for anyone with a will to try!
Hot yoga has been shown to raise your heart rate and core temperature, which in turn dilates blood vessels and increases circulation in your muscles. This is a real win for those who suffer from feeling stiffer in the colder months, another beauty of yoga, is that it is ageless.
Hot yoga in particular helps build the heat from the core to the periphery and the periphery back to the core.
If you don’t feel like getting hot and sweaty with a bunch of strangers, you can start off with simple poses you can do in the privacy of your home including Virabhadrasana (warrior pose), Kumbhakasana (plank pose), Navasana (boat pose), Uttanasana (standing forward bend), and Garudasana (eagle pose), building up to the more difficult poses such as Sirsasana (headstand).
That’s sunlight! Getting enough vitamin D is important for the typical growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance to certain diseases.
No one wants a cold, so remember, prevention is better because there is no cure for the common cold!
Wearing socks to bed may help you fall asleep faster and snooze better during the night.
Research shows that thawing out icy feet can adjust your body’s core temperature to put restful ZZZs within reach. This is even better news for the insomniac or those willing to try anything to help them get some shut-eye at the end of the day.
Don’t forget, Winter is a time of hibernation, however, whilst you’re putting your feet up and getting some downtime, it’s still important to keep chatting to friends!
Humans are social, and being with other humans is a great way to destress and get important community connection.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.