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Staying Active and Well in the Wintertime pt. 2

Between full-out negative temps, several inches of accumulation on our sidewalks, and looking up realizing just how dark it is, winter is here. In the first part of this interview, we tackled how to stay more active even as the temperatures drop. Now we're moving decidedly into mood and overall wellness with Population Health Director Tom Holt.

Keeping an eye on our activity levels and our moods, one of the things with exercise is that one of the benefits I find with exercise, although people say that exercise is just about burning calories, what I find it more is, is that, yes does it burn calories, right?" said Holt. "But I think the better benefit for me is mood enhancement. I feel much better after it. You, of course, feel more energized. So exercise for me is equally as mental as it is physical."

More and more studies are showing that sunlight and exposure to the outdoors can increase mood and emotional stability. A recent study featured in the New York Times summed up the work of researchers based at the University of Innsbruck in Austria and other institutions showed that walking outdoors decidedly and markedly improved overall emotional, mental health and sense of well being. While the study was limited to only three workouts, the results do show a correlation between exercise outside versus indoors.

Again, Tom Holt: "I've heard a quote. It's, 'Exercise is the most underused antidepressant and the food is the most overused.' I think it's a false; you can get vitamin D even from your face being exposed out in the winter sun. Even your face exposed can help vitamin D. Of course, you could take a vitamin D supplement or not be just under ultraviolet light and have more natural light exposure."

Living and working in Wyoming, getting outside in the Winter could be a rough go for even the hardiest of souls. That being said, we do get brief respites, "The other thing I would suggest with moods and vitamin D and sun exposure, try a walk on your break outside in the winter or exercise during your lunch break outside, so that could be an option."

Another reality of living in Wyoming in the Winter is the thaw and refreeze that seems to happen throughout the entirety of the winter months. "People I think to worry about slipping and falling. I will say in Douglas one cool thing that we have is the Bearcat Trail. I know some people know it's there but don't use it or don't even know it's there," noted Tom. "The nice thing about it is there are two sides of it, so there's the lower trail that goes in front of D-Hill and over by the primary school, and then there's the hillside, which some people aren't really into walking up the hills, but it's a great workout. Also, it's crushed limestone, and its wide, and so you won't slip, you're a lot less likely as you compare it to like concrete."

How do we stay well enough to get in this activity and feel good enough to head outside? Cold and flu season can work on us to make us feel miserable, plus tax our bodies immune systems. Tom advised several items to keep in mind if you want to bolster your chances of staying well. "During cold and flu season, a lot of it, it is super important, vitamin C is key. Eating a wide variety of colorful vegetables and whole foods are gonna give you the essential nutrients that you need so your body can function right. That's what vitamins and minerals are for is so the processes, the chemicals, everything works correctly. And so when you give your body what it needs, then when your immune system is down, or you're stressed, or you didn't sleep as well, or whatever life events happen, your body's ability to fight against it."

Last but certainly not least? "The third one too is what would be good to prevent, or when cold and flu season comes up I'm getting adequate sleep, and then if I am exercising, then what I find is that I sleep a lot better too. So when I do a workout, so long as it's not right before bedtime, I sleep much better than I had if I didn't exercise."

Other items that can help you stay committed to being fit this winter include wearables like the iWatch or FitBit brand varieties. You can track heart rate, activity levels, steps, even sleep patterns and rest, all from your wrist. So maybe that adage of the best offense is a good defense is right and staying on top of your health no matter the season is always important.

Have a suggestion that has worked for you to stay active, healthier and well in the wintertime? Let us know in the comments on our Facebook Page!