For Your Health with Barry Bouthilette: Surviving the dreaded season ahead – GazetteNET

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This time of year, we start getting reminders that the earth is swinging back on its axis. The shorter days along with a nip in the air tell us that here in the northern hemisphere winter is just around the corner.
For many, the onset of the colder months is something to be dreaded. It means bundling up to stay warm, expensive heating bills, dicey travel in lousy conditions, and more — much of it unpleasant.
On the upside, winter can be an opportunity to read more books and catch up on inside projects or hobbies, and a time of renewal. Good things, for sure.
But let’s not start planning for hibernation yet.
The approach of the dark, cold season doesn’t have to mean the end of physical activities. It just means we may need to make a few adjustments, both in our mindset and in the way we do things.
It’s no coincidence that those who stay physically active are generally better able to manage the sometimes inhospitable passage between autumn and spring.
They may still curse winter from time to time but, for the most part, they figure out a way to not let the most challenging season get the best of them.
What’s their secret? They keep on moving. Literally.
What’s not such a secret is that regular physical activity is one of the keys to robust health and quality of life.
There’s good evidence that moving our bodies frequently and occasionally rigorously brings numerous benefits, among them maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints; improving cardiovascular health; reducing risk of certain chronic health conditions; lowering blood pressure and way more.
Lest you think I’m extolling the virtues of exercise, I’m not.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I believe exercise is overrated. It may be a means to an end for some people but it’s not for everyone.
One does not need to go to the gym to be physically fit and experience vitality.
The goal here is to choose physical activities which bring us some level of enjoyment because we know we’re much more likely to stay with it if we find some pleasure in it.
As we say in health coaching, the best exercises are the ones we want to keep on doing. If they are seen as drudgery or too much like work, we’re not likely to sustain them.
I’m talking about games and dance and yoga and many forms of play in which we employ our body. Yes, using our muscles can be pleasurable too!
When we are physically active, we feel more energetic, we release stress, we sleep better, we get our blood pumping to vital organs, our mood improves, and so much more.
In winter especially, physical activity helps to improve our circulation as we boost our metabolism and crank up the internal furnace, our very own human heater, as it were.
Give yourself bonus points if you’re able to participate in such activities with other people, because the benefits (see above) can be amplified when we turn a solitary pursuit into something social.
The possibilities for activities which are more like play than work is unlimited. And remember: all movement matters.
One does not need to do a high intensity workout to burn calories and improve conditioning. Simple, low-level activities like walking can accomplish much the same, especially if we do them on a regular basis.
Finally, when we’re engaged in physical activity regularly, it can serve as a keystone habit, providing us with a certain momentum as well as motivation to build other healthy habits into our daily routine.
So, as we approach the cold and dreary season ahead, give some thought as to how you will stay physically active, knowing that it could be the difference between dreading and thriving between now and next spring.
Wishing you warmth and many enjoyable physical activities in the months ahead!
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