Wintering for renewal of health
Feeling exhausted already as winter slowly approaches? Don’t know how you are going to keep the pace of your life going after the rigors of a fall schedule and the craziness of the holiday season?
Feeling guilty about feeling lazy?
Have you considered that you may not need to? That it might be better to slow down, pull yourself out of circulation for a “cold” minute, and RENEW in mind, body, spirit.
TORPOR IS terrific!
Many animals enter hibernation during winter to conserve energy by going into a deep sleep-like state. Many mammals lower their metabolism and enter a state called “torpor,” which is not a full sleep but a deep laziness complete with slowed heart rate and lowered body temperature that helps them conserve their health and vitality until the spring season.
Let’s allow ourselves some torpor in the coming season. Get the rest you need. We have all heard the news on the importance of sleep in not only the quality of your life today but in the prevention of disease tomorrow. Treat sleep and relaxation like medicine: Dose daily. (If you or someone you love is having a hard time sleeping or feeling refreshed after sleeping, it might be a sleep disorder and you should talk to your healthcare provider about any “hibernating” issues.
Eat light and only when you are really hungry!
The art of “wintering” does not mean that you have to lose all dietary self-control and pack on the pounds. Just take a lesson from the playbook of our hibernating animal friends: Eat only when you are hungry and eat small, light meals. Nutritionists agree that weight management is easier when we break up our daily food intake into “grazing” throughout the day, snacking on fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy soups, and other nutritious foods. If you start thinking about snacks as meals and meals as snacks, your noshing won’t hurt your summer figure at all!
“The formula for weight loss: less calories in and more energy burned doesn’t really change with the season,” says Azure Ziegler, family nurse practitioner at Banner Health Center in Loveland, CO.
Stop sweating the workout resistance…
Sometime between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, our resolve to live fit through challenging exercises and sessions at the gym begins to nosedive. Personal trainers often call this “workout resistance,” and it happens to even the best of athletes from time to time. Taking off a few days or a week may be just what you need to get back to your workouts with more energy and enthusiasm.
“It’s like taking a vacation: you come back recharged and ready for more,” says Ziegler.
Remember, even in hibernation you don't have to be completely inactive, and in fact, this may be the perfect time to try activities you usually don't have time for. Leave the fitness routine, heart rate monitor and towel for your sweating brow behind and try healthy, fun-focused activity such as:
- Building a snowman or an igloo
- Going for a long walk
- Taking a dance class
- Doing some yard work or shoveling snow
- Cleaning out a closet in record time or tackling that attic or basement
- Tossing a football or kicking a soccer ball
- Marching in place or around the house to your favorite music (or dance!)
- Ice skating, sled riding, or if snow-less, bike riding or roller skating
Have gentle, active fun and enjoy your health all winter long!
What do bears think and dream about in hibernation? They probably do not think much about others or problems or plans for the future. When you’re in your own seasonal “torpor,” take some time to think about ME--what you need, what you want, what makes you feel good and healthier.
Celebrate the extraordinary power of your mind. Exercise your brain. Science tells us that thousands of new cells are generated in the adult brain every day, particularly in the hippocampus, a structure involved in learning and memory. Animal research shows that within a couple of weeks, most of those new brain cells will die, unless the animal is challenged to learn something new. Learning—especially learning that involves effort—can keep our brains bright and active for life.
So use your winter hibernation to take on a challenge to your brain. Study a language. Read a literary classic. Play chess. Learn a period of history in-depth. Work those crosswords and Sudoku puzzles in your spare time.
“Keeping those brain cells active is just as important as physical activity,” says Ziegler.