Ep. 102 – Continue to Exercise During the Winter Months

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Good morning and welcome to Episode 102 of The Train Your Brain Podcast with Dr. Michael Trayford. Every Monday we produce a 30-minute episode. Tuesday through Sunday we produce episodes with five-minute tips. Every episode of the Train Your Brain Podcast features a tip, so you can receive pointers 365 days a year that will help enhance the performance of your brain!

Today Dr. Trayford shares tip number 102. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. And, the healthy physical activity that you naturally do in the Summer is so critical for the Winter as well. It may be cold outside but that doesn’t mean you can keep up your exercise routine. Your brain will be sharper and your body will be more fit throughout all seasons. Thanks for listening!

If you have any concerns regarding the information and applications discussed in this podcast, please consult your physician and a doctor who is experienced in functional neurology. Michael Trayford DC, DACNB is available for consultation by calling (828) 708-5274. Thanks for listening.

Winter is a time when most people try to keep warm, stay inside. Metabolic demand can go up, you might start to eat more, and put on a little extra weight as the body’s way of staying warm. If you’re living in a colder climate, as a survival mechanism your body will naturally crave fattier foods, because it feels the need to insulate and also to burn calories to generate heat.
Continuing to exercise during the winter months is extremely important. Many people tend to cut their activity level back during the winter months.

You might have also heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, where people start to become withdrawn and depressed in the winter months. This can sometimes be related to a vitamin D deficiency or a decrease in certain fatty acids in the diet.

There’s also a correlation to a lack of physical activity. If you’re not exercising and moving around the brain isn’t working as well and you can tend to withdraw a little more as a result. I tend to tell people you can do a lot of research on your own by searching the topic on the internet.

If you’re not getting out there, you’re not getting the sunlight, the sunlight you do get is weaker and you’re not getting the full range of activity. If you’re not getting out in nature, you’re not getting the benefits of all that stimulus. At the same time, when you withdraw, you’re not getting the as much social interaction.

Moving, exercising and getting out there is absolutely critical for improving your mood.

People who exercise throughout the year and stay in shape have been found to live longer.

Exercising in the winter also helps on a psychological level. Breaking habits. A lot of people make excuses during the winter months. If you break that habit it not only helps you get the exercise you need, but it also empowers you to be proactive about making the most with your time.

We’ve also talked about the tie between our nervous system and immune system. Neuroimmunology is a branch of science that studies the connections between the brain and the immune system.

You see it a lot in the winter, where cold and flu bugs suddenly pop up. The truth is these bugs are around all the time. The thing is your immune system operates better during certain times of the year. During the winter when you’re not as active and out in the sun, when you’re more sedentary your immune system doesn’t function as well.

So it’s critically important and we need to keep that up through exercise. I know myself, I have a threshold. Under 40 degrees I stay inside to exercise. There are some people who condition their body to be able to tolerate colder temperatures to be able to function better at colder situation.

If you come into a situation where say you’re out skiing and you get stuck, you’ll be able to function better because you’re out in the colder weather. It’s rarely too cold to get out and exercise. While there are extreme situations where the temperatures dip below zero, where safety becomes an issue. If the temperature is above zero you’ll generally stay warm enough from the heat your body produces.

You just need to be dressed appropriately on footwear and tools that you need to adapt to a winter environment. There are a lot of online resources you can look up to help you adapt to your local climate for the winter season.
You don’t want to throw on a bunch of cotton sweatshirts and go running because you’ll sweat in them and freeze later.

This biggest threat to your body when exercising in winter is the accumulation of sweat near your skin. You want to try to dress in layers, and the base layer touching your skin should not be made of cotton. Ideally, you want the fabric to have some moisture wicking properties to pull sweat away from your skin.

When sweat builds up on the base layer it starts to draw heat away from your body. This causes blood to move away from your extremities and pool in your core. If you find yourself starting to break a sweat, you can try to shed an outer layer. The goal is to be warm, but not hot.

Frost bite can also be a consideration in colder climates. If the weather is nearing zero it’s better to have mittens or choppers so your fingers can move around and pool their collective heat. Gloves can often reduce circulation to your fingers in cold conditions.

If the weather is very cold, there is also a risk of developing frost bite in your lungs. A face mask with mesh and a nose cover will help mitigate the transfer of cold air into the lungs. If the weather is below zero you should try to breathe through your nose as much as possible. Air coming in through your nose will be warmed up gradually before reaching the lungs.

With a few basic cold weather modifications, you can still get the exercise your brain and body needs with a minimum of inconvenience.

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