5 tips for self-care throughout the seasons

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Starting to think about how best to prepare for your summer bikini body? Or perhaps the falling leaves feel like it’s time to start a good old-fashioned winter bulk. Every year, the changing seasons bring fresh challenges and fresh opportunities for your fitness and self-care routines. In this article we will be taking a closer look at how you should adapt your regime according to the season, and whether winter really is the best time to bulk.

1. Don’t change your exercise routine too much!

Going for a run in the park might seem like a nicer prospect on a warm spring day than in the snowy midst of winter, but actually you should be doing both. With exercise, just like sleep, the most important things for maintaining a healthy routine are quality, quantity, and consistency. In the long term, you should be looking to form sustainable and enjoyable exercise routines that you keep up throughout the year to make the best progress and see results.

Our bodies go through a series of changes and adaptations in order to overcome seasonal weather variations. However, there’s actually no strong evidence to suggest that you should be actively changing your behavior or exercise routine to compensate for that too.

In fact, going for a run on those cold winter days may be one of the best things you can do for your body. Colder conditions are ideal for improving your cardiovascular health and stamina. It may feel like a struggle the first few times you put on your running shoes in the winter. However, your body will get used to the lower temperatures. You may even start to like seeing your breath as you run along the crisp, frost-covered greenery of a beautiful winter’s day! 

2. Put on more weight in the summer and burn it off in the winter

If you’re hoping to keep slim and beach-ready over summer, those few extra pounds you’re noticing on your waistline may be the last thing you want to see. But actually, this is exactly what your body is designed to do. Your body naturally takes advantage of warmer weather over the summer to store excess fat in preparation for the winter ahead.

"You burn more calories in the winter, simply by existing!"

Your body’s resting metabolic rate increases during the winter when exposed to colder temperatures, as it shivers and performs other involuntary muscle contractions to keep itself warm. That means that you burn more calories in the winter, simply by existing! As a result, you may also notice yourself feeling more fatigued, as your body starts using more energy in a resting state. So, although you may be keen to shed some weight before you hit the beach, winter may actually be your body’s ideal time to slim down.

Using a CGM and the insights from the Hello Inside App are the best ways to learn about this cycle and use it to your advantage. Sign up to get updates about availability.

Make sure your body has enough energy to get it through the winter by consuming food high in healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Many of these foods are more complex, and therefore take longer to digest. 

You will also spend less time outdoors in the sunlight, so you may also want to consider taking Vitamin D supplements. This will help ease mood swings and boost your immune system in the face of winter influenza. 

Daylight exposure is also a really helpful way to make sure you can get your morning cortisol spike, and trigger the evening rise of your “vampire” hormone, melatonin. These help to regulate your sleep cycle, which will keep your immune system in check for the winter months too. 

As a rule, try to get outside every day throughout the winter before 9 am (or whenever makes most sense in your time zone). This tells your body it’s time to get moving, and gets the cortisol running! 

3. Remember to warm up (and down)

In the colder months, your muscles will be tighter than when it’s warm outside. That means you need to remember to do some stretching and warm-up exercises before you head into your normal exercise routine. This will help you avoid injury, and also help to keep your performance optimal.

In the summer, your muscles will naturally be warmer and more relaxed, meaning it’s easier to jump straight into it. However, especially if you’re new to exercising and working out, it’s really important to remember to always warm up and warm down before and after doing any physical activity. Just a few moments of stretching can make a big difference in helping you to get started. 

This helps your muscles get stronger and prevent serious injury that could potentially knock you off your new fitness regime for weeks, months or even longer. And as always, remember to focus on the quality, quantity and consistency of your sleep, so your body has time to rest and repair.

4. Spend as much time as you can outside during daylight

Apart from the changing temperatures, one of the biggest differences we have to contend with between winter and summer is having much shorter and longer days. In the winter, less exposure to sunlight means that you will be getting far less Vitamin D than in the rest of the year. Therefore, make sure you always take advantage of sunlight and go out for your run while it’s still light. Even on your busiest workdays, set yourself a reminder to make some time to go for a walk during your lunch break and get some fresh air and daylight. This will also help with your photon and melatonin production schedules, meaning you’ll have an easier time regulating your sleep.

Vitamin D plays an important role in your metabolism, but as of yet scientists are still not quite sure just how important it is. However, we do know that Vitamin D has many other important functions, such as regulating your blood pressure, heart health, and muscle function. Vitamin D also plays an important role in regulating your immune system.

The best way to get Vitamin D is to spend some time in the sun. If you live in a place where you can’t rely on the sun to always shine for you, you can also get it from foods such as fatty fish, egg yolk, certain mushrooms, or meat. In the northernmost and southernmost parts of the world, the sun will not be strong enough during the winter for you to get enough Vitamin D through your skin. Therefore it’s highly advised to take supplements in your diet to make sure you don’t develop a deficiency.

Important things to know about Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. That means it needs fat to be absorbed. Normal supplement capsules already have added fat for this purpose, otherwise take our supplement with some fat (after lunch).

Vitamin D comes in different forms in dietary supplements: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D (D2) comes from plant sources, and Vitamin D3 mainly comes from animal sources such as fish oil, fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks.

A study found that Vit D3 is almost twice as potent as ergocalciferol in increasing serum 25(OH)D, when administered (this means that it is metabolized to higher levels of calcifediol (the active form of Vitamin D).[1]

The average person probably doesn't need more than 600 to 800 IU per day (unless their doctor says otherwise). Taking more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D per day could be harmful.


5. Many of the impacts of seasonal changes are counterbalanced by modern lifestyle

Humans are designed to adapt to different seasons, but nowadays these changes may not be as stark as they used to be. Many of the conditions that lead to changes in your metabolism or physical performance can be counteracted by the modern lifestyle.

If you’re keeping your home heated and warm during the winter and wrapping up properly when you go outside, your body may not fully enter a ‘winter mode’ like it would have if you didn’t have heating and a roof over your head. Likewise, if you’re exercising in an indoor, heated gym, your cardiovascular system won’t be as heavily impacted as if you go running on an ice-cold morning by a frozen lake. 

Holistic Health and Fitness Coach Tim Böttner will also be talking to our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Latz on the Hello Inside podcast about how he uses natural stressors such as cold and warmth to improve his fitness and exercise regime. Subscribe to our podcast, as you won’t want to miss out on that episode when it becomes available!

So keep your healthy habits throughout the year, and keep embracing the outdoors, even on those colder days. Being outside has so many benefits for your body at all times of the year.

Going for a walk or run helps to keep your mind fresh, even on your busiest days, and will allow you to balance your mental and physical needs. 

Hello Inside’s data analytics app in combination with a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) can help you to keep an eye on your blood glucose levels throughout the year. This allows you to spot any unusual spikes or patterns in your blood glucose that could be indicative of a need to change up your routine.


[1] Elisabetta Romagnoli, Maria Lucia Mascia, Cristiana Cipriani, Valeria Fassino, Franco Mazzei, Emilio D'Erasmo, Vincenzo Carnevale, Alfredo Scillitani, Salvatore Minisola. Short and long-term variations in serum calciotropic hormones after a single very large dose of ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) or cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) in the elderly. J Clin Endocrinol Metab . 2008 Aug;93(8):3015-20. doi: 10.1210/jc.2008-0350. Epub 2008 May 20.

 

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