WIN­TER-PROOF YOUR HEALTH

HOW TO EAT BET­TER, GET EN­ER­GISED & STAY HAPPY

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Front Page -

WIN­TER is the time for com­fort,” Edith Sitwell once wrote, “for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk be­side the fire.” She didn’t say much about spin bike in­ter­vals or kale smooth­ies, but per­haps that’s not sur­pris­ing: when the days draw in and the ther­mo­stat starts creep­ing up, hi­ber­nat­ing un­til the sum­mer seems a lot more ap­peal­ing than stay­ing in shape.

How­ever, aban­don­ing any thoughts of health en­tirely for three months a year is a mis­take. “What works in sum­mer may not work in win­ter, but keeping fit what­ever the sea­son is im­por­tant,” says Tim Hayes, A-list trainer and founder of fit­ness app Peach. “It’ll keep you healthy and pro­duc­tive through the cold sea­son — and it cer­tainly al­le­vi­ates the stress of need­ing a quick sum­mer holiday fit­ness fix when the weather starts to heat up again.”

Be­sides, it doesn’t all have to be mis­er­able jogs in the un­for­giv­ing dark­ness at 7am. With the right plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion, you can spend the bleak months in­dulging in hot baths and roast din­ners, and still hit spring in bet­ter shape than ever.

1 GET OUT­SIDE

Yes, even when it’s brisk. “It’s im­por­tant to get out­side in nat­u­ral sun­light dur­ing the win­ter,” says Dr Paul Kel­ley, a sleep ex­pert at The Open Univer­sity. “It’ll help you sleep well and stay healthy in gen­eral. If pos­si­ble, get out­side dur­ing the morn­ing. More nat­u­ral sun­light in the win­ter is even more im­por­tant for those of us who suf­fer the ef­fects of sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der (SAD).” Newly pub­lished re­search from Dr Kel­ley and his col­leagues sug­gests that sun­light helps to reg­u­late your cir­ca­dian rhythms, keeping your body’s most im­por­tant sys­tems run­ning smoothly.

2 COOK SLOW

Yes, the fes­tive sand­wiches are al­ready on shelves, but man can­not live on turkey-cran­berry con­coc­tions alone. “Dur­ing the colder months, we tend to want ‘com­fort’ food, but eat­ing healthily can be com­fort­ing,” says Bradley Sim­monds, trainer and au­thor of fit­ness man­ual Get It Done. “At this time of year I love us­ing my slow cooker to make warm­ing soups, stews and chilli con carnes. Toss­ing in some in­gre­di­ents be­fore you go to work or batch-cook­ing for the week is a great way to make sure you don’t give in to temp­ta­tion on the way home.”

3 GET MORE VI­TA­MIN D

“One key the­ory on the roots of SAD is that it’s linked to a lack of sun­light and a re­sul­tant de­fi­ciency in vi­ta­min D,” says Bianca Estelle of Vi­ta­min In­jec­tions, which runs a SAD treat­ment course com­bin­ing vi­ta­min, mineral, en­zyme and mi­cronu­tri­ent in­jec­tions. “Vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency treat­ment has been found to be as ef­fec­tive as light-box ther­apy for the treat­ment of SAD. Con­sider sup­ple­ment­ing with zinc, an es­sen­tial trace el­e­ment that can help tar­get fa­tigue and mood-re­lated symp­toms of SAD by restor­ing en­ergy lev­els.”

4 SPICE UP YOUR DRINK­ING

If you’re mulling up a vat of wine, toss some fresh cin­na­mon sticks in — ac­cord­ing to re­search from Wheel­ing Je­suit Univer­sity, just a whiff of the stuff is enough to im­prove cog­ni­tive func­tions and work­ing mem­ory. Oh, and there’s also some ev­i­dence that cin­na­mon blunts in­sulin spikes, so help your­self to an ex­tra glass while you’re at it.

5 LIGHT UP YOUR HOUSE

“One of the big­gest con­trib­u­tors to SAD is a lack of ex­po­sure to nat­u­ral light, but there are many ways to max­imise it in the home,” says Scan­di­na­vian in­te­rior de­signer Cat Dal (cat­dal­in­te­ri­ors.com). “Re­place stan­dard light bulbs with full-spec­trum light bulbs, which mimic nat­u­ral day­light in the same way a light ther­apy box does. An­other good trick is to place mir­rors op­po­site win­dows to help the nat­u­ral light fill the space. Light plays an im­por­tant part in mela­tonin pro­duc­tion, and so good light­ing can have a pos­i­tive im­pact on your sleep­ing habits.”

6 …WITH THE RIGHT COLOURS

The ba­sic rule is: think blue by day and orange at night. This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in the con­text of tech­nol­ogy, be­cause mod­ern screens tend to emit blue light, which can sup­press the body’s nat­u­ral pro­duc­tion of the sleep hor­mone mela­tonin. “A lack of day­light in win­ter when the days are shorter can leave you feel­ing lethar­gic, so make it a pri­or­ity to get out into the day­light when you can,” says Jas­mine Hem­s­ley, chef, nu­tri­tion­ist and well­ness coach. “As the nights get longer, set all your screens — mo­bile, lap­top, tablet — to au­to­mat­i­cally switch to ‘night mode’ when the sun sets, so the ex­cess blue light doesn’t mess with your sleep.” The f.lux app does it au­to­mat­i­cally, and self-ad­justs in syn­chro­ni­sa­tion with the sun­set.

7 EM­BRACE FRILUFTSLIV

Friluftsliv is Nor­we­gian for “open-air liv­ing” and it’s used to de­scribe ev­ery­thing from frosty lunchtime runs to head­ing for a hut in the hills at the week­end. If you’re not quite pre­pared to go that far, start small. “It’s im­por­tant to get out­side as much as you can, but when that just isn’t pos­si­ble, taking a break from screens and sit­ting by an open win­dow, ap­pre­ci­at­ing the nat­u­ral beams of the moon­light or a sun­set, is very good for im­prov­ing your mood,” says Dal. Even get­ting a pot plant for your of­fice desk might help — stud­ies sug­gest they can im­prove cre­ativ­ity.

8 EAT SEA­SON­ALLY

“A great way to tran­si­tion into the colder months while main­tain­ing your health is to eat sea­son­ally,” says Jay Bolton, ve­gan per­sonal trainer and founder of Jay Plan­tPower. “Try a warm, hearty soup us­ing some fresh in-sea­son veg­gies, like but­ter­nut squash, car­rots, parsnips and pur­ple sprout­ing broc­coli — for most of th­ese, it’s enough to gen­tly fry them in a pan with some gar­lic or onions, add some veg­etable stock and then blitz them in a blender. You’ll ben­e­fit from a di­verse range of vi­ta­mins and phy­tonu­tri­ents and en­joy it more than cram­ming down a salad in win­ter.”

9 CY­CLE UN­DER A CEIL­ING

Decades ago, tread­mills al­lowed run­ners to carry on ex­er­cis­ing through win­ter with­out get­ting wet and weary; and years ago, the ad­vent of com­puter-sim­u­lated driv­ing ranges meant golfers could swing their arms even when the golf course was too sod­den to nav­i­gate. Now, cycling is the lat­est sport to get the in­door treat­ment. Cycling-friendly gyms of­fer classes on a type of hi-tech ex­er­cise bike that mea­sures the power of every pedal ro­ta­tion and tracks per­for­mance over time. It means cy­clists can keep in shape with­out skid­ding on an icy coun­try­side lane. And since wind re­sis­tance doesn’t come into play, there’s no need to wear Ly­cra.

10 GET EVEN COLDER

In ther­mo­stat crank­ing weather, turn­ing the tem­per­a­ture down seems counter-in­tu­itive: but it might ac­tu­ally make you feel bet­ter in the long run. “The fight-or-flight re­ac­tion trig­gered by cryother­apy re­leases pow­er­ful hor­mones — in­clud­ing feel-good en­dor­phins and en­er­gis­ing adrenalin,” ex­plains Nyambe Ikasaya, founder of SaiSei CryoTher­apy. “There’s ev­i­dence to sug­gest that it can re­duce pain and in­flam­ma­tion, as well as im­prov­ing me­tab­o­lism, cir­cu­la­tion and the im­mune sys­tem.” If you’re not in­ter­ested in be­ing blasted with liq­uid ni­tro­gen vapour — tem­per­a­tures range from -120C to -160C — switch­ing the wa­ter to “re­ally cold” for the last 60 sec­onds of your morn­ing shower might have a di­luted ver­sion of the same ef­fect.

11 LEARN A SKILL

Is hit­ting the tread­mill los­ing its ap­peal as the nights draw in? “Look for fun ac­tiv­i­ties or cour­ses that keep you com­ing back,” sug­gests Bolton.

Danc­ing, for in­stance, will keep you fit and so­cia­ble – you’ll im­prove week on week, you won’t want to let your part­ner down by skip­ping a ses­sion and the feel­ing of achieve­ment will have you hooked.

Dance classes will chal­lenge your per­cep­tion of what you can do and be­cause they also re­quire con­cen­tra­tion, you get a fix of mind­ful­ness at the same time.

12 TRAIN AT HOME

“Fit­ness apps are a great way to get in a quick 30-minute liv­ing room work­out be­fore work, dur­ing lunchtime or at the end of the day af­ter the kids have gone to sleep,” says Hayes. “Al­ter­na­tively, get­ting a per­sonal trainer to come to your home at least once a week to sup­ple­ment your train­ing and keep you ac­count­able is a bril­liant way to keep your fit­ness goals on track. It’s al­ways harder to turn your trainer away when they are ring­ing your front door bell at 6am — you can’t just roll over and hit your alarm clock snooze but­ton.”

13 HYGGE UP YOUR YOGA

Re­mem­ber: it’s tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble to do yoga with­out mov­ing. “For Scan­di­na­vians, the idea of hygge is to make the ev­ery­day spe­cial and the mun­dane more mean­ing­ful,” ex­plains yoga teacher Mar­garita Mitchel Pol­lock. “It’s a con­cept that works well with yoga — as the long nights draw in, light some can­dles, put on your cash­mere socks and play some soft mu­sic. Co­coon your­self in warm lay­ers, wrap your­self in a comfy blan­ket and prac­tice your pranayama — the art of the breath. Breath in slowly for five sec­onds, hold and then re­lease slowly for five.” The tech­nique will fire up your parasym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem, re­duc­ing stress and aid­ing a whole host of bod­ily pro­cesses.

14 BATHE IN MIN­ER­ALS

“Ep­som salts, other­wise known as mag­ne­sium sul­phate, have been recog­nised for cen­turies as an an­swer to in­flam­ma­tion, mus­cle pain and headaches,” says Bolton. “It can be taken orally, but two cups in the tub work just as well — your skin will ab­sorb it while you think about other things. You’ll fin­ish your bath feel­ing

toasty and ready for the sea­son ahead.”

15 PLAN FOR GREATNESS

In snooze-alarm sea­son, morn­ings can be a bit rushed — so set your goals for the day the night be­fore. “Write down three small tasks you are in­tent on achiev­ing for the day,” says Rhia Clay­ton, cre­ator of sixweek coach­ing pro­gramme Eat Your­self Lean. “Th­ese could be healthy habits such as drink­ing two litres of wa­ter or a small work task you’ve been putting off. Keep them close by — in your phone works fine, but vis­i­ble on a notepad is bet­ter, as it will help direct your fo­cus. Ac­tion breeds more ac­tion.”

16 DRINK MORE WA­TER

You might not be sweat­ing, but turn­ing up the heat­ing or putting on an ex­tra jumper comes with its own is­sues — over­heat­ing and dry air means you’re still in dan­ger of de­hy­drat­ing. With­out out­ward signs, it’s easy to for­get you haven’t drunk any wa­ter. “If you’re prone to for­get­ting to hy­drate, try keeping a bot­tle of wa­ter at your desk — or a Ther­mos of hot wa­ter, maybe with a spot of lemon, a rich source of vi­ta­min C, which has an­tibac­te­rial, an­tivi­ral and im­mune boost­ing prop­er­ties,” sug­gests Hem­s­ley. You’ll keep all your body’s func­tions — in­clud­ing your im­mune sys­tem — in full work­ing or­der.

17 PRO­CEED GIN­GERLY

“Fes­tive snacking can re­ally up­set your di­ges­tion,” says Hem­s­ley. “If that sounds fa­mil­iar, nib­bling on raw gin­ger or sip­ping a strong gin­ger tea in­fu­sion 15 min­utes be­fore a meal can help things along — it’s a great di­ges­tive aid.” Ev­i­dence also sug­gests that it can de­crease mus­cle sore­ness. To make a sim­ple gin­ger tea, just peel and slice some gin­ger root (a spoon works best for the first bit), then steep it in boil­ing wa­ter for five min­utes.

18 AD­MIRE YOUR SUP­PER

Made your ham 24 hours in ad­vance and cooked it to crispy per­fec­tion? Take half a minute to ap­pre­ci­ate the results be­fore you tear into them, says Dr Christy Fer­gus­son, cur­rently work­ing with Hel­loFresh. “Daily cre­ative ac­tiv­i­ties such as cook­ing are also linked to in­creased feel­ings of pride. An ef­fec­tive way of boost­ing your lev­els of feel-good brain chem­i­cals such as sero­tonin is to sim­ply pause and take pride in what you have made, but most im­por­tantly, set­ting aside the time to do so. “At the point of plat­ing up give your­self per­mis­sion to cel­e­brate this suc­cess as part of a rou­tine, pro­mot­ing feel­ings of hap­pi­ness.”

19 GET YOUR ROAST ON

“Stud­ies have shown that most peo­ple suf­fer a nat­u­ral de­crease in the pos­i­tive mood hor­mones dopamine and sero­tonin in the win­ter — a com­bi­na­tion that means we’ll be sus­cep­ti­ble to sweet cravings and fa­tigue,” says Rhian Stephen­son, CEO of in­door cycling spe­cial­ists Psy­cle. “It’s im­por­tant to eat foods that will bal­ance blood sugar — in­clud­ing slowre­lease car­bo­hy­drates and nat­u­rally sweet foods like roasted veg­eta­bles.” For a change of pace, roast car­rots or cau­li­flower in turmeric. Cur­cumin, the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent of the spice, helps to boost your im­mune sys­tem.

20 FRONT-LOAD YOUR WEEK

“If you start the week with a work­out you’re far more likely to stick to your plans, es­pe­cially in win­ter,” says Stephen­son. “Wait­ing un­til the end of the week makes it tough to get your mo­men­tum go­ing, and you’re more likely to get side­tracked by work and so­cial plans. Make sure you move every day from Mon­day to Thurs­day. It doesn’t have to be a full hour in the gym; 15 min­utes at home or a long walk could be enough.” Re­mem­ber to sched­ule your work­outs, rather than try­ing to squeeze them in: treat a gym ses­sion like a can’t-miss meet­ing and you’ll find time.

21 HAVE A MINI-WORK­OUT PLANNED

There will be times when all your plan­ning goes out the win­dow, be it due to a snow­storm, a flu-stricken teenager or a box of wine. When the gym is firmly off your list of pri­or­i­ties, even a lit­tle bit of ex­er­cise is bet­ter than noth­ing.

“Make sure you have a pre­set 15 to 20-minute home work­out that can be done with­out equip­ment or a lot of space,” says yoga in­struc­tor Chris Magee. “That way even on the days you can’t make it to the gym, you still get to move and make progress to­wards your goals.” For ex­am­ple: warm up, then do three to ten press-ups, then the same num­ber of lunges on each leg, every minute for 10 min­utes. Write down your mini-work­out now, so that when willpower is at a low ebb you don’t need to make any dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions.

22 … BUT GO LONGER, IF YOU HAVE TIME

“I rec­om­mend do­ing a long car­dio work­out — around 90 min­utes, if you can man­age it — once a week through­out the win­ter,” says Stephen­son. “Long car­dio­vas­cu­lar ses­sions have been shown to sup­press ap­petite for longer than shorter ses­sions and im­prove mood-re­lated neu­ro­trans­mit­ters. Since we’re prone to cravings and mood fluc­tu­a­tions in the win­ter, find­ing time to fit in longer ses­sions can be in­cred­i­bly ben­e­fi­cial.” It doesn’t have to be hard­core — putting on some boots and go­ing for a tramp in the frost can be more ben­e­fi­cial than grind­ing out a jog.

23 TWEAK YOUR WARM-UP

Pay more at­ten­tion to your warm-up to make sure you’re phys­i­cally ready. If you’re trekking to the gym through nearArc­tic con­di­tions, you’ll need to pay more at­ten­tion to your warm-up to make sure you’re phys­i­cally and men­tally ready to train — en­cour­ag­ing blood flow to your ex­trem­i­ties and keeping you neu­rally primed. Thank­fully, it doesn’t need to take too long. “Mix dynamic stretches with press-ups, lunges and body weight squats — do three or four rounds of each,” says trainer Jes­sica Wolny. “Or for a more in­tense warm-up, jump on the row­ing ma­chine for a mod­er­ate-paced 500m — do 10 ‘power strokes’ around the 250m mark to get your heartrate up.”

24 SLIP-PROOF YOUR KNEES

Whether you’re out jog­ging in the first frost or soft-shoe shuf­fling your way to H&M, slip­pery pave­ments put you at in­creased risk of sprains and strains. To guard against th­ese in­juries, train the mus­cles in your feet and an­kles to fire prop­erly and help your align­ment with the ket­tle­bell hand­off. “Hold a light ket­tle­bell in one hand as you bal­ance on one leg, then pass it to the other, keeping your body aligned — don’t let your torso wob­ble from side to side,” says Wolny. “Hold the po­si­tion for three sec­onds on each side, and do four to six swaps be­fore you change legs.”

25 RUN WITH FRIENDS

Look at the win­ter as a chance to ease off — ad­verse con­di­tions mean there’s less pressure to hit race-pace, so you can take ad­van­tage by run­ning with friends with­out try­ing to hit your per­sonal best ‘sum­mer’ num­bers. “Com­mit to a train­ing group — a sense of com­mu­nity will hold you ac­count­able and keep you mo­ti­vated come rain, snow or shine,” says Rory Knight, Techn­o­Gym master trainer. “Re­gard­less of your abil­ity, you’ll be given the op­por­tu­nity to train.”

26 BREAK OUT THE TURKEY EARLY

Eat­ing turkey ear­lier in the cold sea­son can keep your mood in­tact, says Dr Fer­gus­son. “It con­tains the amino acid tryp­to­phan, which is a key build­ing block for our feel-good brain chem­i­cal sero­tonin. Be care­ful not to over­cook it, be­cause it will af­fect the pro­tein struc­ture of the food and in­flu­ence how eas­ily it can be di­gested and as­sim­i­lated. This will have a knock-on im­pact on neu­ro­trans­mit­ter pro­duc­tion.” Trans­la­tion: toss­ing a few chunks in a stir-fry beats blast­ing a whole bird in the oven.

27 GET IN­CI­DEN­TAL EX­ER­CISE

When it’s tough to drag your­self out of the house, har­ness the mo­ments when there’s no other op­tion. “Rather than at­tempt to find an hour in your day to hit the gym, look for times when you are al­ready ac­tive and up the de­mands,” says Clay­ton. “If part of your com­mute to work in­volves walk­ing, walk faster. If you’re walk­ing your dog or get­ting out with the buggy, go longer. A fast 20-minute walk burns be­tween 120-200 calo­ries — and shouldn’t leave you as hun­gry for a refeed as a jog.”

28 PUT THE TREE UP EARLY

When ev­ery­thing’s bleak out­side, get your hit of green­ery wher­ever you can — stud­ies sug­gest that strolling through na­ture ac­ti­vates the parasym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem, and even view­ing im­ages of trees on a com­puter screen can have a sim­i­lar ef­fect. Or just bury your face in the fo­liage — in a Ja­pa­nese study, par­tic­i­pants who got a nose­ful of pine re­ported greater feel­ings of re­lax­ation af­ter­wards.

29 LAYER UP

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just in­ad­e­quate equip­ment. “Layer up by treat­ing your­self to some of the lat­est breath­able, wa­ter-wick­ing fab­rics to keep you warm, dry and com­fort­able through­out your work­out,” sug­gests Knight. “Leg­gings and run­ning tights (ac­cepted at­tire for gents th­ese days) pro­vide com­pres­sion, and stud­ies sug­gest that they can help with cir­cu­la­tion, and aid re­cov­ery.” In­vest­ing in a mois­ture-wick­ing base layer, gloves and a breath­able wind-block­ing top will make train­ing less of a bat­tle against the el­e­ments. If you’re com­mute-run­ning a small back­pack isn’t a bad idea so you can shed lay­ers as you warm up. If you’re go­ing home in the dark, con­sider in­vest­ing in a head torch to steer clear of traf­fic.

30 …OR DON’T

File this one un­der ‘Try at your own risk’, but there’s some ev­i­dence that go­ing shirt­less in the cold — like “ice­man” Wim Hof, who climbed a de­cent chunk of Ever­est in his un­der­wear — can be ben­e­fi­cial for fat loss. Cold, ac­cord­ing to some re­search, seems to in­crease the body’s pro­duc­tion of brown fat, a tis­sue that other mam­mals use to keep them­selves warm — and also tweaks in­sulin pro­duc­tion.

In 2015, for in­stance, eight over­weight men suf­fer­ing from type-two di­a­betes em­barked on a pro­gramme of cold ex­po­sure, sit­ting in a cool room in noth­ing but shorts for six hours a day, for 10 days. At the end of the ex­per­i­ment, the men were clear­ing sugar from their blood 43pc more ef­fi­ciently — ef­fec­tively mean­ing that the cold ex­po­sure helped to con­trol the ef­fects of their di­a­betes. More re­search is needed but, in the mean­time, if you for­get your scarf in the morn­ing, con­sole your­self with the thought that it might be do­ing you some good.

Get out­side as much as you can; be­low, eat fresh, in-sea­son veg­eta­bles

Prac­tice pranayama — the art of breath­ing — to re­duce stress

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