I Heart Winter

HeartsnowflakeWith the season’s first snowfall, it seems winter is officially upon us. The thought of winter brings pleasant images of sparkling snowflakes, cozy fireplaces, holiday spirit, and the excitement of sports. But this time of year can also bring danger to our health.

With something as little as cleaning the snow off your vehicle or driveway, there is no doubt winter weather can produce life threatening situations, especially when it comes to our hearts.

As it happens every year, the weather becomes chilly, outdoor activity becomes scarce and we become less active – almost as if we are hibernating for the winter. In the same sense, we are hibernating our hearts.

Exercise outside

Our hearts need to stay active with regular exercise. Though it may not seem as likely to get out and exercise in the winter, there are plenty of ways to exercise our hearts without heading to the gym.

You can enjoy all sorts of winter activities, while enjoying your friends and family too. And there are activities for all ages such as walking the dog, building a snowman, skating, skiing, and sledding.

Other outdoor activities to explore include:

  • Walking your child to school
  • Snow bowling
  • Building a snow fort
  • Snow painting
  • Snowshoeing
  • Making snow angels
  • Ice fishing
  • Hiking
  • Winter festivals

Kids need to get outside too

With all the energy they have, children even seem to hibernate for the winter. Usually the only parts of their bodies getting exercise are their eyes wiggling about on the TV screen or computer.

Childhood obesity is officially a major concern in the U.S. and getting them outdoors during the winter is imperative.

It’s important to educate them about the benefits of staying active during the winter season. Encourage them with a snack or hot chocolate. Who doesn’t enjoy a cup of hot chocolate after a cold encounter with winter?

Even letting them help shovel snow from the driveway, will give them a sense of accomplishment and their health will too.

Shoveling

Having a helper may take the stresses off your heart when shoveling snow, but even then can pose fatal risks on the heart.

Follow these tips (provided by the Heart and Stroke Foundation) to prevent any misfortunes.

  • Warm up. Shoveling is just like any other form of exercise. It’s a good idea to limber up with some basic stretches before you begin.
  • Layer upon layer. The body quickly generates heat when shoveling. By dressing in thin, breathable layers, you can avoid overheating.
  • Avoid a full stomach. Be sure to digest your meals before picking up the shovel. A full stomach can cause strain on the heart during physical activity.
  • Take a break. Giving yourself a breather in the middle of strenuous shoveling is good for the muscles, especially the heart muscle.
  • Use the buddy system. Even shoveling is better when you do it in twos. You cut your work and half and you have a pal to keep you company. Plus, you can look out for one another should anything serious happen.
  • Consult your doctor. Those who are older, overweight, out of shape and/or have a history of heart disease in the family should seek expert advice from their doctor before taking their chances.
  • Use good judgment. There are days when braving the cold just isn’t an option. If your weather calls for temperatures below -40°C, which is often caused by wind chill, you are best to take shelter indoors.

If you have any other helpful information, feel free to comment.

For more healthy heart information, please visit us online by clicking here.

About Sherman Health

Sherman Health has provided medical care to Northern IL since 1888, and is currently home to a network of over 600 physicians. The Sherman blogs are edited by me, Luke. Questions? Comments? Links? Email address is luke at shermanhealth dot com.
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5 Responses to I Heart Winter

  1. Maggie says:

    I never think of how little activities is actually making you work. I’m not a fan of cold. I think I will stick to my majority of exercise indoor. Plus my husband does such a good job at shoveling. he needs the work too 🙂

  2. mfd1 says:

    I like the idea of thinking of snow shoveling as good exercise. Makes it seem more bearable. Thanks for the good advice.

  3. Teresa says:

    I love winter activities but I must admit I have to shove myself outside when its cold. I think its a great idea for kids to help with snow shoveling. It’s great exercise and another way they can contribute to the family.

  4. elksclub says:

    One of my favorite things to do is to be out on a cold morning in a forest preserve hiking with my dog, listening to the sounds muted by the snow.

  5. mzpritteful says:

    I used to LOVE shoveling the snow with my dad when I was a kid! Made me feel so useful. I still enjoy many of the winter activities for sure! Especially ice skating! Good advice!

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