The Pillars of Health Over the Winter Months

Trigg Skoe

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By Josiah Cuckler

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(B.S. In Nutrition and Dietetic Management Graduating Fall 2018)

At the core of health and wellness stands two pillars. Nutrition and physical activity are the two pillars which stand only as tall as we build them. They are factors that, for the most part we can influence and shape to our liking. Keeping these pillars strong and able to hold up our health over long winter months can be a struggle. As we close in on our well-earned thanksgiving/fall break there are a lot of variables that can hinder our health. The American ritual of over consuming food as if we are going into hibernation, and the lack of physical activity, tied into our increased food intake are two such variables. Additionally, chronic disease prevention is yet another reason to monitor your healthy nutritional and physical activity.

Without going into intricate detail about metabolic regulation and physiological interactions in the body, I will keep it simple by saying, listen to your body. There are many satiety queues at play in the body that are sending signals to your brain. These signals indicate sensations of hunger or fullness. Integrating a mindful eating approach and focusing on how your stomach and body feels will allow for better control of eating. Listening to your body can be difficult when more time is spent indoors during winter weather. This can lead to a strong urge to chronically snack.

Americans often struggle with whole fruit and vegetable consumption. The USDA dietary guidelines from 2010 recommend 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. During the winter months it can be difficult to make it to the store often to get fresh seasonal produce. Without getting into the logistics of grocery shopping (food cost/budget, transportation, and produce availability), recognize that nutrient dense foods (fruits and vegetables) benefit the body’s physiology. Nutrition affects us daily and is something that we can enjoy and control. With so much out of our control genetically, and environmentally, building the pillar that is nutrition gives us the ability to control this aspect of our lives.

With a fall in temperature and snow on its way, it is only natural to stay indoors. Maintaining fitness levels can be difficult in Colorado when there is no real motivation to go outside. Gym memberships can be obtained for decent monthly no contract prices in Fort Collins. Many gyms offer student discounts as well. If the gym isn’t for you, there are hundreds of body weight and dumbbell exercises that can be conducted that achieve muscle strain and development. For optimal health during the winter months, incorporate cardiovascular exercise and strength/resistance training (body weight training and/or weight lifting). Maintaining fitness and dedicating time to exercise has dozens of proven health benefits. Not only does maintenance of this pillar aid in chronic disease prevention, but it can also improve mood and overall health. Psychosomatic is the relationship between the mind and the body. Building the physical activity pillar takes time, and consistency. With quality work and consistency, amazing results can be achieved. It is important to note, “Resistance-training programs should be tailored to meet the needs and goals of the individual and should incorporate a variety of exercises performed at a sufficient intensity” (Sports medicine 2001 Christopher Hass). Each person may be at different fitness levels and capability.

For excellent tips on strength training reference the Harvard Healthbeat website at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/7-tips-for-a-safe-and-successful-strength-training-program.

References (MLA):

  1. Hass, Christopher J., et al. “Prescription of Resistance Training for Healthy Populations.” Sports Medicine, vol. 31, no. 14, 2001, pp. 953–964., doi:10.2165/00007256-200131140-00001.
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. “7 Tips for a Safe and Successful Strength-Training Program.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/7-tips-for-a-safe-and-successful-strength-training-program.
  3. “USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines.” USDA, 2010, www.usda.gov/.