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Get Set to Sparkle this Canadian Winter
With the right winter gear and a positive attitude Canadian winters can be a joyful, fun and active time of year.
Winter can be a hard time for people to keep active. As the temperature declines, more people spend time indoors. It can be difficult to walk on icy sidewalks, especially for an increasingly aging population, amongst which there can be a fear of falling and injury. Along with this lack of activity, we see Canadians gaining weight, energy levels snow diving and mood disorders on the rise.
When getting outside really is too much to handle, then head out to the gym, drop in on a yoga class, or go for an early morning walk in the mall. One thing not to do is be still all winter long.
Mood: Research shows that after five minutes of outdoor time, people’s moods improve and self-esteem goes up. A study published in Psychological Science showed that attention levels were improved when time was spent in nature.
A Duke University study and one published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1999 on exercise for depression showed it can be equal to or better than some medications for improving symptoms for the long-term. Exercise boosts dopamine and oxytocin levels and these two hormones are responsible for happiness and love. Think about moving your body outside daily to increase your dose of happiness.
Maintain Joint Health
As we age, we tend to be less active. Pain can be a factor in inactivity. There are two main types of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA), which is normal wear and tear of the joints and occurs as you age. The other is rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an auto-immune condition that effects the joint spaces. Remaining active is an important way to keep your muscles strong and joint spaces limber. If sore joints are your cause of inactivity, choosing some natural remedies may help support the joints.
Fish oils: These are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (including EPA and DHA), and a powerful anti-inflammatory as they inhibit inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins. They have been found to decrease joint swelling and tenderness in both RA and OA.
Boswellia: Is known to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It can also prevent cartilage loss making it a potential therapy for RA in addition to OA.
Curcumin: Derived from the turmeric plant, this plant reduces pain and swelling due to OA and RA by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2).
Improve Your Immune Health
It was found that people who spend more time in nature had an increase in natural killer cells, which are needed to eliminate viruses and cancer cells from our bodies. It is also important to remember that viruses cannot live in a cold climate. Our tendency to hibernate indoors allows for the proliferation of bacteria and virus overgrowth. It is in fact spending time outdoors, that inhibits these little pathogens. Nature, really is good for
For extra immune system support, visit your health food store. Elderberry syrup is a delicious remedy used for centuries and is rich in vitamins A, C, bioflavonoids, and antioxidants that boost the immune system and damage the virus cell wall. A study in the Journal of International Medical Research, showed patients given elderberry syrup recovered an average of 4 days faster from the flu than those not taking the supplement.
Instead of grabbing those sugar filled cough candies to soothe a sore throat, try some zinc lozenges instead. Zinc is a trace mineral essential for cells of the immune system, and zinc deficiency affects the ability of T cells and other immune cells to function as they should. So, zinc lozenges will not only soothe your throat, but support your immune health too. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
Vitamin D: Getting outside is also a great way to help ensure your daily dose of vitamin D, important for both immune and bone health. Vitamin D is essential to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, depression and cardiac episodes. We want to be mindful of how much time we spend in the sun for skin health, but if you know you are not going to get outside, than a supplement is something to consider.
Garlic is a nutrient dense plant, used for thousands of years in the treatment of illness and disease. Research shows people that eat 1-2 cloves daily get fewer cold symptoms, and when they do get sick, it’s for less time. If eating it raw is too much for you, try adding it to salad dressings, into bean salads or quickly minced and add to greens.
Learning Respect for the Environment
It has been shown that children under the age of 11 that spend time in nature, take better care of the environment later in life. It’s an important lesson for our children and to pass on to future generations.
So, grab your children or grandchildren, a friend or pet and connect to nature and explore all the winter sparkle Canada has to offer.
Rachel Schwartzman is a board certified naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist and birth doula. She maintains a general family practice in Toronto, with a special interest in family medicine, women’s health, pregnancy and pediatrics. rachelschwartzman.com