Winter Health Tips

Your body’s chemical switch has flipped to storing more fat.

Get your motor running. When University of Colorado researchers studied a group of 12 women and six men in both summer and winter, they discovered that their production of ATLPL, a chemical that promotes fat storage, almost doubled during the winter and dropped during the summer. But you’re not doomed to don fat pants all season, scientists say. Exercise may increase SMLPL, the muscle enzyme that promotes the burning of fat, to offset the pudge-promoting effects of ATLPL. “We found that people who are normally physically active are more protected from weight gain,” says study author Robert E. Eckel, MD. Get in at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, whether it’s Spinning, snowshoeing, or building a snowman.

Your carb cravings skyrocket when the days get short.

Munch on healthy carbs in the afternoon before the sun goes down to stave off a splurge. Winter can trigger cravings for comforting, sweet carbs because diminished sunlight during the season makes serotonin in the brain less active. Too little of this mood-lifting chemical leaves you feeling tired and hungry, says Judith Wurtman, PhD, founder of Triad, a Harvard Hospital weight-management center, and coauthor of The Serotonin Power Diet. Your brain is making you desire carbs because after you eat them, your serotonin level will rise. Wurtman’s research found that “carbohydrate cravers” with seasonal affective disorder may consume an additional 800 calories or more a day because they satisfy their munchies with fatty carbs; indulge like that for five days straight and you’ll gain a pound.

Put yourself in a good mood during winter’s dark days by instead eating low-fat, healthy carbs, such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal with a sprinkle of brown sugar, and cinnamon toast. Because cravings tend to grow stronger as the day goes on, try to eat protein, dairy products, and vegetables for breakfast and lunch, Wurtman says. Then have a low-fat carb snack, such as popcorn, soy crackers, or cereal, in the afternoon. For dinner, opt for roasted potatoes, whole-grain pasta, black bean soup, or vegetable stew with barley. (Avoid eating a lot of protein, because that prevents serotonin from being made.) Another slimming strategy that may help put the brakes on binges is to spend at least 20 minutes a day outside or near a bright window to amp up your serotonin, suggests Donnica Moore, MD, author of Women’s Health for Life.

A snowfall derails your usual outdoor workout.

Let it snow! The white stuff increases the calorie burn of each step. For example, a 30-minute moderate walk on an even surface burns 106 calories for the average 140-pound woman. Snowshoeing for the same amount of time more than doubles the burn, to 256 calories. Runners, meanwhile, can safely jog through the season by stealing these get-a-grip strategies from the pros up north, who regularly brave the flakes.

  1. Invest in a trail-running shoe for its deeper treads, which provide better traction — some water-resistant models, like the Asics Gel-Arctic 2 WR ($90, asics.com for info) have removable spikes on the outsole — or a set of winter cleats, such as Yaktrax ($30, amazon.com), which slip on over your running sneakers.
  2. Listen to your body: Run slower than usual and take shorter strides. “If you continue your normal stride length, your calves will be sore the next day, because you tend to claw the ground with your toes to keep your footing,” says marathon coach Ronnie Carda, PhD, coordinator of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s physical activity program.
  3. Skip the hills. “More falls happen on downhills, because you naturally tend to pick up your pace, making it harder to stop when you hit an icy patch,” says Jan Ochocki, a coach with the Road Runners Club of America in Minneapolis.

Winter Accesories

Wear a hat. You lose a good deal of heat out of your head. Plus, it is also a sensitive part of the body, so you will really feel it when the temperature dips. Make sure you have something to keep your head warm and protect from the wind.

  • One good piece of headgear for style is a beanie. It covers your ears and the top of your head, while also keeping your face open for people to see. It’s hard to feel stylish when no one can see your face.

Keep your hands warm. You don’t want to keep your hands stuffed into your pockets at the only way to keep warm. Instead, keep them out by covering them with gloves or mittens. Either one can work, but are better for different situations. Mittens will keep your hands warmer because they hold your fingers together in a single pouch. On the other hand, gloves give you more freedom to move and use your fingers.

  • Whichever you chose, you can always give your hands an extra boost with small hand warmers.
  • Like other outer layers, waterproof mittens or gloves are best, especially if you will be dealing with rain or snow. Dry hands are easier to keep warm.

Cover up the obvious holes in your wardrobe. Don’t just think about large areas of exposed skin like your arms, legs, or neck. Consider the parts of your body where your regular layers end, like your neck and wrists. Look for clothing that is a bit longer to cover up more exposed areas.

  • Wearing a scarf is a great and stylish way to keep your neck warm. A colorful or interesting pattern can help you stand out, and it doesn’t need to match the rest of your wardrobe in the same way. Don’t forget that there are a variety of ways to tie your scarf to vary your look, even with the same scarf.

Get the right shoes. Your footwear should have some kind of tread. Winter is the season for ice, snow, and slush, and there is nothing stylish about slipping as you walk along. Boots are also thicker, and will help trap heat around your feet and ankles. 

  • For women, consider higher boots that come further up your legs. The extra coverage will give you the freedom to consider a shorter skirt, and provide a slightly different look than rain or snow boots.

 

Choose the Right Coat

Consider what you require from your coat. Does it need to be warm, waterproof etc.? Is the appearance of your coat a major factor?

What is your budget? Coats can range from next to nothing to, sometimes, thousands. You need to consider how long you will be using the coat and how often. You should also consider how much it means to you

Weigh out what you need. If you need a mixture of practically and looks, then begin your search with that in mind.

Take measurements. It’s useful to take these before you start your hunt as it can save time looking for sizes to try on.

Begin your search. Are you going to a specific shop or boutique to buy your coat or are you looking to go to a mall or town center to browse through many shops? You may even want to consider purchasing your garment online.

 

Winter Fun Activity

Hoop It Up

Grab a few hula hoops, and have a contest to see who can last the longest. It’s a lot harder when you’re all bundled up!

Shake It Up!

Use strong glue to attach a plastic toy to the inside of a jar lid, then add baby oil and glitter for a homemade snow globe; it makes a fun souvenir of a great day.

Cool Critters

Use bits of nature to embellish animals sculpted from snow.

Ice Maker

When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, blow bubbles and watch them freeze on the wand.

Snow Graffiti

Give kids spray bottles full of water that’s tinted with food coloring to decorate the white canvas in your backyard.

Tic-Tac-Snow

Two players go for the championship in this classic game. Use crisscrossed sticks and pinecones as game pieces.

Cold Molds

Borrow some pans from the kitchen. Use them to build crystal fairy castles or to create cakes for a cold-weather “buffet.”

A Sweet Chalet

Decorate your playhouse with laminated paper snowflakes, pinwheels, and a wreath dotted with plastic ponytail holders.

Frosty Toss

Have a snowball-throwing contest! Make a target by creating a bright circle in the snow with colored water in a squirt bottle.

Sugar Daddy

Give your friendly snowman a candy-coated makeover with licorice, lollipops, and gummies.

Tips to Stay Warm

Layer up

You lose heat through conduction whenever your body comes into direct contact with something cold, like when you sit on chilly ground. Wind steals your body heat through convection. But you can insulate yourself against both types of heat loss by wearing layers, Greenway said.

Your base layer — think long underwear and thick, wool socks — keeps you from losing heat through conduction. And wearing an external, wind- and water-proof but breathable layer will protect you from heat loss though convection. “Anything that you can build around you [to enclose yourself] in a microenvironment that will help insulate from the effects of the cold, that is a good thing,” Greenway said.

Stop the shivering

Think of shivering as a warning sign that you need to get yourself someplace warmer, fast. When your skin temperature drops, shivering kicks in to keep your core temperature from falling, too. The spasmodic contracting and relaxing of your muscles “consumes calories, and it generates heat” to replace the heat your body is losing through convection or conduction, Greenway said. But that means “once you start shivering, that’s your brain telling your body it’s time to get to a place where you’re warmer.”

People with mild hypothermia will shiver, but those with moderate hypothermia may not. The body stops shivering when the muscle contractions are no longer effective in producing heat, he said. That means “as you get colder, shivering actually stops, so then your core body temperature just plummets.”

Stoke the furnace

Being well-fed — meaning consuming more calories than you’re burning — will help your body handle the cold better, according to Greenway. “It always helps to be well-fed in the backcountry when it’s cold,” he said. “This is all-important, to keep your blood sugar up enough to provide the energy you need to keep warm in a cold situation.”

 

Staying hydrated is also key, Greenway said. “Your body will tolerate the cold much better if food and water balance are maintained.”

Be prepared, all the time

Heed weather warnings, and stock your car with water, calorie-dense foods, warm blankets and extra sets of dry clothes just in case. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 25 percent of winter-related fatalities occur when people are caught unprepared out in a storm.

Know your risks

Drugs to treat high blood pressure, including alpha-blockers, beta-blockers and direct vasodilators, can make you more sensitive to the cold, as can some medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism. Age also affects the human body’s cold-coping mechanisms. Children under age 2 have not developed the ability to shiver to raise their body temperatures, and people over age 60 are less able to generate heat though shivering, Greenway said.

 

Tips for Comfortably on a Cold Night

When you’re trying to sleep, your body loves to be cold, rather than hot. A drop in your core temperature, due to a cold sleeping environment, can trigger your body’s “let’s hit the hay” tendencies and help you get right to sleep. But sometimes your sleeping area is too cold due to a cold night outside, and you have difficulty finding the right balance between too hot and too cold. With some minor adjustments to your pre-sleep routine and your sleeping area, you should be warm enough to get to sleep, despite the frigid weather outside.

Do some light exercises before bed. This will warm up your body temperature as you prepare for bed. Try a simple stretching exercise, with deep breathing, to warm yourself up.

  • Stand with your legs hip distance apart. Breath in deeply and raise your arms to the ceiling. Roll your shoulders back and tuck your tailbone towards the floor.
  • As you exhale, lower your arms so they rest at your sides.
  • As you inhale, raise your arms to the ceiling again. Stretch as far as you can towards the ceiling.
  • As you exhale, lower your arms. Continue to raise and lower your arms, breathing deeply with each movement, for 10-12 breaths.

Drink hot herbal tea or water. A warm beverage will increase your body temperature and gives you a sense of warmth. Choose herbal tea, with no caffeine so it won’t keep you up at night. You can also have a mug of hot water with lemon and honey to keep you warm.

  • Avoid hot cocoa or hot chocolate, as the caffeine and sugar in the powdered mix will likely keep you up at night.

Wear warm sleepwear in layers. Layer your clothing so you trap in your body heat as you sleep. Wool long johns, a flannel shirt or sleep set, long sleeve t-shirts and sweaters are all items you can layer on for warmth. Wearing layers, as opposed to one big, fluffy one piece sleepsuit, allows you to shed clothing throughout the night as your body warms up.

  • Sleeping at a slightly cold temperature has been shown to lead to deeper, longer sleeps. You want to be careful not to warm your body up too much, as this could lead to fitful sleep or discomfort while sleeping. Wearing layers allows you to adjust your body heat as you warm up

Invest in an electric blanket or a heated mattress pad. If you decide to use an electric blanket, which uses electricity to warm up, be sure to unplug the blanket before you go to sleep or as you are dozing off. It is a fire hazard if left plugged in overnight. You should also avoid running the control cords for the blanket between your mattress and the box spring. The cord could become damaged by friction or heat from the electricity in the cord could become trapped, and lead to a fire hazard.

  • If you decide to get a heated mattress pad, which uses electricity to stay warm, do not use an electric blanket. This could lead to overheating and is a fire hazard.

Winter Season

Winter is often associated with plunging temperatures and icy weather, but its impact and timing changes according to location.

The coldest season of the year, winter comes between autumn and spring. The farther an area lies from the equator, the colder temperatures it experiences. Temperatures in equatorial regions stay relatively constant despite the shifting seasons. This is because, due to the curve of the Earth, the equatorial areas get more sunlight, according to the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program.

Most people refer to astronomical winter when they refer to the season. Ranging from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox, astronomical winter has to do with Earth’s position around the sun. During the winter solstice — which falls around December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere and June 21 in the Southern Hemisphere, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) — the path that the sun travels in the sky reaches its lowest point. It is the shortest day of the year, and has been noted and celebrated by a wide variety of cultures around the world.

During the winter solstice, the corresponding pole is tipped about 23.5 degrees away from the sun, according to the NWS. On that day in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is farther from the heat-producing star, while the Southern Hemisphere, which experiences summer, is closer.

But anyone who regularly engages in winter sports might tell you that winter weather tends to fall before the middle of December or June. Meteorological winter falls sooner, spanning the three-month period from December to March, according to NOAA. Based on weather such as snow and ice, meteorological winter doesn’t rely on Earth’s journey around the sun. While astronomical winter begins on the same date for the whole hemisphere, meteorological winter comes earlier for those farther from the equator.

Tips Staying Warm During the Night

Use a hot water bottle. Look for a hot water bottle at your local drugstore. Most hot water bottles are made with a liquid that can be heated in a microwave. You can also use a more traditional hot water bottle that uses boiled water. Simply boil water on the stove and pour it into the hot water bottle.

  • Place the hot water bottle under your sheets or a blanket, by your feet. It should stay warm all night long, warming your toes and your body. By morning, it will cool to a tepid temperature.

Put on wool socks. Wool is a great material for insulation and retaining warmth. Your feet are often the first body part that starts to feel cold and due to poor circulation, you may have a hard time warming them up with just a blanket.

  • Get several pairs of high wool socks and keep them by your bed. You may reach for them in the night, in the event you can’t get warm.
  • You may also want to invest in house slippers to keep your feet warm throughout the day. Look for thick slippers with rubber soles to keep your feet cozy and give you traction when walking around your home.

Use body heat. A good way to stay warm at night is to move closer to your sleeping partner and reap the benefits of natural body heat. If you have a pet, you may consider allowing them to sleep in your bed, if only to keep you warm throughout the night.

Block any drafts in your room. Drafts are openings between doors, window panes, and sometimes even the slates in your floors, that let cold air into your room. If you keep getting woken up by cold air in your room, check for any drafts by your door, your window panes, or in the corners of your room. Block these drafts with a rolled up blanket or a long pillow. This will help to prevent cool air from circulating in your room as you sleep.

  • You can also hang long blankets over your door and your windows to prevent any cold air from outside from coming in through small cracks into your room.

Layer your sheets and blankets. If you continue to wake up at night shivering due to the cold room, try layering your blankets over your sheets, alternating between a thin layer and a thick layer, to create more warmth. Down comforters are great for retaining heat and keeping you warm, as are wool blankets.

  • Down sleeping bags, made for camping, will also keep you very warm throughout the night. Look for them at thrift stores, Goodwill, or camping stores.

Winter Home Improvement

Just because we’ve had record high temperatures in the past several years and general worrisome warming trend doesn’t mean that winters are going to get any easier in the Northeast. Now that cold weather is upon us, get your home buttoned up and ready for it with our expert hands-on game plan, which will not only make your home more comfortable and energy efficient, but save you some money while you’re at it. From big changes that will knock hundreds of dollars off your energy bill to smaller ones that need just a bit of elbow grease and a few materials from your local hardware store, we’ll show you what you need to get the job done! So no matter if you rent or own your house, check out these 7 handy tips that we promise will make a real difference in keeping you warm and your energy bill manageable this winter.

Seal Your Walls

The mantra in green construction is: “seal it tight, ventilate right”. The sealing part is about getting a handle on all the places where air penetrates through the wall and causes drafts and fluctuations to the temperature inside your home. A simple tube of high quality caulk and a plan to tackle all those problem areas can go a long way if you know where to look (hint: grab your infrared thermometer).

What keeps the outside air out of your home is typically the interior walls (or drywall), but you’ll find many holes that have been cut out of these walls to install your plugs and switches. If you have ever removed the face-plates of  these plugs and switches during cold weather, you’ll have probably noticed some cold air pouring out. Reduce this leakage by using caulk to seal around the the area where the electric box meets the drywall. If you’re comfortable working around electricity, head to the breaker, turn it off, then test the outlets to make sure they are really off. Once off, you can then pull them out of the box and begin to seal up all the little holes in the back of the box, including where the wires come through.

Seal Your Home’s Can Lights

Other notorious culprits that contribute to air leaks are recessed lights found in the ceiling. Many old can lights are actually vented on purpose to keep from being overheated by the lightbulb (they are called non-IC or non-insulation contact rated cans). Because warm air rises, an unsealed can light below a roof is a big problem. It’s a good idea is to remove the existing ring of this can and seal the can’s perimeter with caulk. The inside of the can should be sealed with either caulk or aluminum tapeto keep your home’s warm air from escaping into the attic.

It’s very important that you not put an incandescent bulb in the can. Instead, opt for something like a Cree LED recessed light — this light is dimmable, super-efficient and does not build up heat. Moreover, if you have a non-IC rated can, it’s a really good idea to put a note inside to not use incandescent lights in the future. An overheated fixture has the potential to cause serious problems. If you can’t give up your incandescent, another approach is to go into the attic, install and seal a box made from drywall around the light, and then insulate from above. This has the added benefit of improving you r-value, or insulating effectiveness.

Look For Insulation Gaps

Anywhere you have something that penetrates the wall, there is bound to be an air leak. Check out the outside faucets, air vents and plumbing for large gaps where air can escape. Seal the penetrations with expanding foam so that every nook and cranny is filled. Be careful to never seal next to a gas flue or you will have a fire hazard on your hands.

Once that is done, if you are ready to get dirty, check out where the foundation meets the house and crawlspace and fill those little forgotten cracks — note areas where you see even the slightest bit of daylight passing through. There is even an expanding foam for the big holes and a fire block version for holes between floors or for sealing electrical boxes. We also recommend practicing on a scrap surface to see how the foam works. Remember to wear gloves when using the foam — this stuff is really sticky before it sets!