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What does your winter health look like?


I’d be lying if I said summer was on its way. This winter period has drawn longer than anticipated, we’ve had two unexpected storms and with climate change paving the way for unpredictably, we can’t count on the sunshine to warm up anytime soon. However before I paint the picture of permanent grey skies and wet pavements, it’s not all doom and gloom.

If we are looking to optimise our health, improve the resilience of our immune system and get a good night’s sleep, we can use this unpredictable weather pattern to our advantage. Let me explain.

With our climate-controlled homes and offices, our bodies have forgotten (truly forgotten) what it’s like to be more adaptable and resilient when it comes to environmental changes. Such changes were a regular part of our hunter-gatherer lifestyle; to survive we had to learn to adapt.

No opportunities for technology to do the job for us. You may be thinking, “yes, but technology (aka central heating) decreases the risk for us getting sick from these changes!” However, by outsourcing the work to ‘technology,’ the bodies thermostat doesn’t quite know what to do with itself. If we don’t expose the body to any stressors, it will weaken. Just as our immune system will weaken. Say hello to the common winter cold and flu.

If we give the body what it needs to become strong and resilient, we need to apply some sort of environmental stressor to facilitate this. If you aren’t currently part of the ‘embrace all weathers’ club, here are five suggestions that can contribute to help get you there and improve the health of your immune system at the same time:

  1. Aim to wear one layer less of clothing than you think you need when embracing the outdoors. Do you need three-four layers for going for a dog-walk? Try two or three. It may be chilly to start with, but your body will soon warm up and adapt. Give it a chance to do its job.
  2. Get outside more! Find social hobbies (for example country walks with friends, rambling groups, gardening, horse riding, golf) that not only include your loved ones but aim to get you all in the great outdoors.
  3. Turn your thermostat down 1-2 degrees. Similar to point 1. Give it a couple of weeks and you will adapt to this (both mentally and physically!). Plus, you’ll save on your energy bills and contribute your part to the environment.
  4. Look at your physical activity programme and create some changes that get you outdoors. Do you always exercise in the gym? Could you, once a week replace your treadmill run for an outdoor run? A bike ride? There are plenty of outdoor pursuits, and you may find a new healthy hobby you may enjoy.
  5. Experiment with one-month of cold showers. Inspired by the great Wim Hof ‘Ice Man,’ taking ice baths and cold showers have become extremely popular with athletes and the health-obsessed. However, there is something to be learnt here. Extreme temperature changes with parameters in place (breath control is paramount in downregulating the internal stress response) are powerful tools when it comes to improving the health of the immune system.

Remember with all of these, if you aren’t used to such changes, it will come as a shock and there will be a level of uncomfortableness. However, the more you learn to embrace the change, you more you will grow in your physical and mental fortitude. See you in the great outdoors!

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