Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Dose of Our Own Medicine – Exercise During the Holidays

By: Ricardo E. Colberg, M.D., Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center

As healthcare professionals, all of us know the importance of a healthy diet, staying physically active and getting a restful night’s sleep. On a daily basis, we treat many patients with chronic medical conditions that are a direct result of a sedentary lifestyle.

Even though we continually remind our patients about the need to make better lifestyle choices, we too are human and struggle with the same temptations. With the holidays, cooler months, and shorter days, the need to practice what we preach increases exponentially; otherwise, we become patients too. The American Heart Association recommends that we perform 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week, all year long. If you are having a hard time getting motivated to exercise during the winter months, here are your MUST READ reasons and recommendations.

“Why Should I Work Out?”

1. It is Easier to Keep Weight Off Than to Try Losing It

With the colder weather, our basal metabolic rate decreases, which means our bodies build fat easier. Staying physically active during the colder months keeps our metabolic rate elevated, allowing us to enjoy our holiday feasts without the guilt of packing on a few pounds. Considering that it takes one week to lose one pound of excess weight, it is easier to keep weight off than to gain weight during the winter and try losing it in the summer.

2. We are More Productive When We Work Out

With the colder mornings and later sunrise, we are all tempted to hit the snooze button more often. However, studies have shown that exercising in the morning increases your energy level and productivity throughout the whole day. There is also better compliance with the exercise program since it is the first activity of your day, so you are less likely to skip exercising due to running late with other commitments.

3. “Feel Good” Hormones are Produced When We Exercise

With the long, dark, and cold days of winter, we are more susceptible to seasonal affective disorder and depression. Staying physically active is a great way to produce endorphins, which are the "feel good" hormones in our bodies. This goes a long ways in keeping us energized throughout the day making those dark days of winter more enjoyable. Most importantly, it keeps us emotionally stable.

4. Exercise Stimulates the Production of Joint Fluid

Our joints tend to get stiffer during the winter due to the colder temperature causing peripheral vasoconstriction. Exercise stimulates increased blood flow to our extremities, which promotes the production of healthy joint fluid and helps preserve the joint’s full-range-of-motion. In the long run, this leads to decreasing the risk of developing osteoarthritis, specifically of the hips and knees.

5. Staying Active in the Winter Decreases Injuries in the Summer

Exercising during the winter keeps our bodies in shape, maintains our strength and flexibility, and keeps us ready for spring time. This decreases the risk of injuries when the warmer weather comes and we are more inclined to go outside and participate in sports and recreational activities.

“How Can I Stay Compliant?”

1. Schedule Workouts

Rather than leaving your workout up to chance, you can be proactive and schedule dedicated time to exercise, ideally in the morning.

2. Recruit an Accountability/Training Partner

While it may be hard to motivate yourself to get going on cold mornings, it is easier if you are not alone. Find a workout partner to stay motivated. You will be less likely to press the snooze button if there is someone else you are leaving hanging.

3. Exercise at Home and at Work

If you can't go to the gym during the holiday season, you can still get a great workout at home. There are many workout videos that you can play on your TV or tablet that do not require special equipment. In addition, make an effort to park at work farther from the building and to take the stairs more often. This forces you to exert your body more frequently during the day in order to maintain a higher basal metabolic rate.

Ricardo E. Colberg, M.D. is a sports medicine & non-surgical orthopaedic physician at the Birmingham & Pelham offices of Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center. Dr. Colberg has a special interest in treating acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries, including bone, joint, ligament, muscle and tendon injuries. He performs various treatment modalities in the clinic that assist the patient in their recovery from the injury, among them diagnostic musculoskeletal sonography, ultrasound-guided injections, and platelet-rich plasma therapy. For more information, contact Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center at 205.939.3699 or visit AndrewsSportsMedicine.com

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