Brrr! It’s Cold

January 29, 2019
by Alanna Elling

Most everyone knows that Christmas song that speaks of the frightful weather. What can be even more frightful though, is how that weather can affect our health.  


Winter isn’t the same for everyone of course. Old Man Winter gives some people a much harder smackdown than others. I have friends living in some of the warmer climates that either post pictures of them relaxing at the beach or ones of them shivering and complaining that they can’t stand the cold when their current temperature is 69 degrees.(Dude! That’s like shorts weather!) Where I live here in Michigan though, we see, feel, and deal with some ugly conditions just about every year. Conditions that even people that have lived here and experienced their whole lives may not really know just how much it affects our bodies.


Our bodies when they are exposed to the elements, even for a just a few minutes, are constantly working to help keep our bodies regulated and working at optimal levels. Most people are thinking that during the winter months they are not as active as they are during the warmer months. A lot of people would be wrong to think this way. Physical activity while outside in the cold can actually be more taxing on your body depending on many different factors. Factors that would include not just age, but also your fitness level and your diet.  


In regards to age, it’s important to remember that as we grow older, things do become more difficult to deal with. When performing any kind of strenuous activity outside whether you are going for a run or shoveling snow, dress appropriately for the weather conditions you will be in and for the time you will be in them for. The more cold it is the more layers you should consider to help keep your body temperature in check. If you insist on going for a run (Something I personally don’t advise in severe temperatures. Most if not all doctors would agree with me on this one…) make sure that you have your face covered to prevent overexposure. When you are shoveling the walk way and or driveway, take breaks. Especially if you are not fit physically. After all, the snow isn’t going anywhere. (Well not immediately anyway.) Exhaustion and long term exposure will only lead to loss of focus, balance, and over exertion which will lead to slips and falls and heart attacks. (Yes, even in young people!) It would be a good idea to also check on the elderly members of your family and community to make sure that they are doing ok as well.


As for diet, it is important to stay hydrated. Most people would be surprised to know just how many people are dehydrated during the winter and didn’t even know it. Your body uses water stores to protect the body from the affects of the cold. Have dry skin? You may be dehydrated. Along with that, on cold days it would be good to limit or cut out entirely any alcohol or drinks with caffeine. Not only do both of these dehydrate you more but they even thin your blood which makes it more difficult for your body to regulate temperature. On cold days its best to eat hot meals to help keep you warm. Stews and soups are a great choice because not only do they help keep you hydrated but are also absorbed quickly and spread warmth.  


We as humans don’t hibernate through the winter. (Well some might…) So we have to do what we can to get ourselves through it. As long as we are make smart choices before we step out into the elements and when we are out in them, Old Man Winter won’t be able to keep us down.  


Take care everyone. Take care of your loved ones. Spring will be here before you know it.  

Written by Christopher Smyth

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