Get active during winter
Year on year millions of us blame the dark, gloomy winter months for our miserable moods, and yet the idea still remains that the winter blues is just a myth. But now there is now scientific evidence to support the idea that the seasons can actually affect our frame of mind.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the official name for the 'winter blues'. It is characterised by episodes of depression that recur at the same time each year, but most commonly appears during the winter as the symptoms tend to be worse during this time,
It is thought that SAD affects one in 15 Britons during the winter, many of those diagnosed concerning younger people in their twenties.
The symptoms for SAD include; being less active, being in an irritable mood, feelings of despair, having low self-esteem, feeling tired and sleeping more (hypersomnia), not being able to concentrate and putting on weight.
People who believe they are showing symptoms for SAD are being urged by the NHS in South Tynside, to make a number of simple lifestyle changes. Taking exercise outside being number one.
Dr Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, which produced a report on the mental health benefits of exercise, said, "There's convincing evidence that 30 minutes' vigorous exercise three times a week is effective against depression, and anecdotal evidence that lighter exercise will have a beneficial effect too."
"If you have a tendency towards SAD, outdoor exercise will have a double benefit, because you'll gain some daylight."
Activity is believed to change the level of the mood-regulating chemical serotonin in the brain.
The Ramblers' Association offers a Festival of Winter Walks with routes ranging from three to 10 miles. They're a great way to enjoy some moderate, daylight activity.
Trying to get as much natural sunlight as possible is also highly advised, with even a brief lunchtime walk being beneficial.
It's also important to eat well during the winter. Winter blues can make you crave sugary foods and carbohydrates such as chocolate, pasta and bread, but don't forget to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, too.
Tips to stay active and healthy:
- Make eating fun by experimenting with seasonal vegetables such as cauliflower, brussel sprouts, swedes, parsnips and turnips. These can be cheap, easy to find and can make hearty soups.
- Having a hearty breakfast, such as a warm bowl of porridge on a cold morning isn't just a delicious way to start your day; it also helps you to boost your intake of starchy foods and fibre. Add fruits to include 1 of your 5 a day.
- Get out and try new activities with the whole family, maybe ice-skating or taking a bracing winter walk on the beach. Regular exercise helps to control your weight, boost your immune system and is a good way to break the tension that can build if the family is constantly cooped up inside the house.
- A home workout is free and perfect if you'd rather stay indoors, you're short on time or if the weather's putting you off. Think about how you can use familiar objects around the house, such as the stairs, chairs, soup cans and water bottles to exercise with. Check out fitness DVDs or even YouTube for video clips on getting fit at home.
If you would like to have a personalised healthy eating plan, advice on weight management courses, or would just like more information on leading a healthier lifestyle, contact the South Tyneside PCT health and lifestyle advisors on 0191 283 1156.
Symptoms of Winter depression
In addition to those symptoms listed above, other symptoms of winter SAD may include:
- being less active
- feeling tired and sleeping more (hypersomnia)
- not having as much energy
- not being able to concentrate
- putting on weight
- an increased appetite and eating more than usual (hyperphagia)
- craving carbohydrates (starchy foods, such as bread and pasta)
Ruth McKeown, director of public health for NHS South of Tyne and Wear working on behalf of South Tyneside Primary Care Trust (PCT), said: "Our role is not only to ensure health services are available for you when you become ill but also to work towards helping you to live a healthier lifestyle
"A healthy lifestyle can help prevent you from developing long-term conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Keeping active, along with eating healthily, drinking sensibly, stopping smoking, practising safe sex and managing your stress levels can all help to keep you in good health."
Vicky Gilmore, health and lifestyle advisor for NHS South of Tyne and Wear, working on behalf of South Tyneside Primary Care Trust (PCT) said: "It's vital to eat a varied, well balanced diet in order to maintain good health during the winter months.
"I know it's tempting to fill up on high fat foods and desserts but always try to remember to eat your five a day as fruit and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals which can help fight coughs and colds."
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