We can do it!

By John Perron

Winter is here, and for too many Canadians that means a lot of time spent being inactive inside. While we humans may not hibernate per se, nothing seems more natural on a cold winter’s night than to bundle up inside with a good book or in front of the TV, with a generous supply of comfort food at hand.

Unfortunately, that can have serious negative impacts on our health. Along with winter weight, the results of being inactive include elevated cholesterol levels, raised blood pressure, loss of muscle mass and any number of aches and pains. And as we age, that winter weight tends to stick around.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to help us all survive the coming cold months. And while several of these suggestions may seem counterintuitive to your desire to hunker down, we guarantee they will make your winter a little easier and maybe even enjoyable.

  1. 1. Get outside and get some exercise! Although going to the gym is a good idea, the great outdoors has its own appeal. AK. study published in 2011 showed that exercising outside resulted in superior energy and a reduction in levels of anxiety and depression.
  2. If you can’t beat it, join it. Even if you’re not the exercising type, get outside. Not only will you get some of the benefits already mentioned, but your body will adapt to the cold, making the temperature more tolerable. That being said, embrace winter and the clothing that goes with it. Leave the summer shoes in the closet until spring and, as your mom used to say, put on your hat and gloves.
  3. Wear long johns. They aren’t just for trappers who live out in the woods. Scantily clad legs radiate body heat and induce teeth chattering pretty darned quick. Long johns, which can now be found in all kinds of sheer, high-tech materials, help you retain valuable heat. They’ll even allow you to turn the thermostat down a tad when you’re inside, saving energy and money.
  4. Get a little daylight. So a trip to the sunny south might not be an option, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a dose of seasonal affective disorder. Sunlight can be hard to get, what with all those clothes and the short days. Experts mostly agree that artificial lighting can help, providing that it gives off the right spectrum of light. You can also take a vitamin D supplement.
  5. Have a hygge party! Finally, here’s one that doesn’t have to involve going outside. The winter nights might have us cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world, but in Denmark, where the nights are very long and dark, folks get together, light some candles, eat good food and laugh away the cold nights, surrounded by friends and family. It’s one of the reasons that Danes score high on happiness surveys, despite their country’s lack of sunlight.

Surviving a Canadian winter while maintaining some level of sanity is challenging, but with the right attitude, it can become a lot easier to bear. Embrace it, as there’s plenty more to come.

What do you do to make the most of winter? We’d love to read and share any advice you might have. Post your ideas in our reader forum or our Facebook page.


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  1. Doug from Alberta says:

    6. Get a good, bright, comfortable LED headlamp with rechargeable batteries. Get in the habit of doing things you would do in daylight. Repeat to yourself: “It’s only dark out when *I say* it’s dark out.”

    7. For winter walking, scrounge up a stout downhill ski pole. Used ones are often free for the taking. The carbide tip (which can be sharpened to taste) cuts into ice perfectly. While you’re at it, grab some traction aids like YakTraks. Four wheel drive for your feet.

    • The Harrowsmith Team says:

      Hi Doug. Thank you for your ideas–Alberta is getting a predictably early start on YakTraks this year. I’ve seen the snowfall reports on the news. If there are any experts and ambassadors for surviving Canadian winters, we in Ontario tip our hats to you in the west. The ski poles are an intelligent idea–and they are easy (and cheap) to find at garage sales and auctions too. I’m a big fan of the LED headlamps as well (available at Mountain Equipment Co-op and SAIL)–especially for barbecuing in the winter!

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