If you live in a part of the country where the temperatures drop and snow sticks around for about four to five months, daily exercise can be a challenge, particularly if you have an outdoor walking routine or you simply prefer the outdoors to indoors. Although millions of fitness minded folks move their exercise routine indoors for the winter, here are some tips for exercising outdoors:
Check the Forecast
Before you head out for a run, walk, or even a winter sport like cross country skiing or snowshoeing, it’s important to take a look at the forecast. Three crucial things to factor include the temperature, moisture, and wind. If, for instance, it’s around 30 degrees (Fahrenheit), the temperature is fairly agreeable for outdoor exercise, but add in moisture and/or wind and it can be difficult and even dangerous, increasing your risk of cold-weather related issues like frostbite or hypothermia. Pay attention to the weather app on your phone or listen to your weather forecaster. If he or she says it’s too dangerous to be outside, take the advice and workout indoors, where you can stay warm and dry.
Your comfort and safety, when exercising outdoors, relies heavily on the wearing appropriate layers. When you wear layers, you are insulating yourself against the elements and preventing getting too hot or too cold. When selecting your layers, the first one should be a lightweight synthetic or polyester material that dries quickly and wicks away sweat. The second should consist of wool or polyester fleece and the final layer, which will be exposed to any type of element, should be water-repellent and lightweight. Your clothes should fit well, allowing you to move comfortably and with ease. Never forget a hat, as it helps your body retain essential heat and gloves and a scarf/neck gaiter can be easily removed as your body warms.
Size Up on Shoes
When selecting appropriate footwear, keep in mind that a heavier shoe/boot may make exercising more difficult and may even put you at risk for injury. If you choose to wear a shoe specific for exercise, make sure it has adequate support, good tread, and consider purchasing a pair that are slightly larger to make room for extra thick socks.
Know Your Limit
As you would (and should) with any exercise, whether indoors or outdoors, it’s important to know your limit. While it’s encouraged to challenge and push yourself, there’s a fine line between working hard and overworking oneself. Listen to your body and take a break when you need one. Don’t forget to hydrate, too. While you’re less likely to feel the need to drink water when the temperatures are cooler, proper hydration is always essential.
Your health and safety should always come first, so if that means you must move your workout indoors for a couple of weeks or even a month, be flexible and do it. If you don’t like the idea of going to the gym, consider taking a dance class with a friend, try out an indoor climbing wall, or even take a few laps around the mall.
The old saying, “mind over matter”, takes on new meaning when scientists view it in terms of the complaints some older people make during routine doctor visits.
Instead of pooh-poohing these concerns as simple age-related worrying (and fear of senility), physicians are being asked to pay more attention to the mind.
“The concerns are being taken more seriously,” notes Zaven Khachaturian, PhD, and editor of Alzheimer’s & Dementia, a journal. This concern is even more important, notes Doctor Ron Peterson of the Mayo Clinic, as medicine moves toward earlier and earlier intervention. In fact, this intervention – in the form of clinical trials and ongoing studies – has begun to identify older individuals’ concerns as perhaps the first onset of Alzheimer’s and other age-related mental illnesses like dementia and depression.
This disease begins in a part of the brain that controls memory, and causes brain cells to literally die. As it spreads, it can affect a large number of intellectual, emotional and behavioral characteristics, ranging of sociability to personal hygiene and toilet skills.
The fourth leading cause of death in America, Alzheimer’s affects about one out of every 100 adults. As of 2015, 5.2 million adults over 65 were afflicted with Alzheimer’s. More than 200,000 under 65 also had the disease. The odds of developing Alzheimer’s climb by 400 percent among families where it is prevalent. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, with similar rates occurring all over the world in developed nations.
The first symptom of Alzheimer’s and it’s affect on the mind is usually a loss of recent memory: that is, what has occurred, or what must be done, within the last few hours or days. This can range from forgetting to turn off the oven to forgetting medication.
Later, Alzheimer’s patients will have trouble working with numbers, and this shows up when they are unable to calculate the exact cost of several things, or when paying bills (versus the amount of money in the checking account).
Ultimately, Alzheimer’s patients will forget where they live, the names of loved one, or recent events. They become, first, quarrelsome and difficult, and then remote, and are unable to physically care for themselves.
Dementia vs. Senile Dementia of The Mind
Dementia simply means “loss of mind”. When it occurs among elderly people, it is labeled senile (for “senior”) dementia.
There are a number of kinds of dementia, ranging from Alzheimer’s to Lewy body dementia or vascular dementia (which results from changes to blood vessels in the brain). They also include such esoteric names as frontotemporal dementia. Dementia is associated with certain diseases, notably Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s chorea, or disease. Senile dementia, which was once a used as a diagnosis, is no longer valid, but doctors often retain the term because it describes the failure of mind associated with simply aging.
The likelihood that a person will develop some form of dementia depends on age, family history, alcohol and tobacco use, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. However, because aging makes us all a little less sharp and focused, some older people who are merely forgetful may accidentally be labeled with dementia when in fact it is simply a normal effect of aging.
Forgetting to take medications, taking too many, or forgetting to drink fluids can also lead to symptoms similar to dementia, and result in false diagnoses.
Preventing Mental Disease
So far there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, though much significant work has been done on diagnosing its cause.
There is, equally, no cure for Lewy body, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s. But just because there is no cure for dementia, doesn’t mean people can’t help prevent it. Here are some things to do to delay the onset of mental aging:
- Pets. Having a pet is important for single seniors, but not always possible. Pets can help prevent the anxiety and depression typical of aging, but not every older person is capable of caring for an animal, or wants one.
- Hobbies are also helpful because the focus the mind, create pleasure, and usually deliver a tangible reward – at least to the hobbyist. But as the hands lose their dexterity, the eyes their acuity, and the general health its stability, hobbies may also become more and more difficult.
- Holistic healing, which involves the use of herbs and supplements, may also be helpful. At the very least, they are not likely to be as harmful as pharmaceutical preparations. In addition, some are vitamins that deplete as we age, and some are supplements that we can’t get without a perfectly balanced diet (and who has one of those?). These “mental healers” include:
- Omega-3 DHA
- Vitamin B (especially B-12)
- Choline, (L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine)
- Bacopa Monnieri
- Huperzine A
- Ginkgo Biloba
- Vitamin D
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), omega-3 essential fatty acid
- Huperzine A
In the health arena, the three most important developments of the last 100 years are disinfection, microsurgery, and pharmaceuticals.
The first two continue to deliver benefits to the ill and injured. The third, pharmaceuticals, produces some spectacularly effective results. Think Advair Diskus, without which some asthma sufferers would have died, or Synthroid, the synthetic thyroid hormone that has allowed hypothyroid victims to live more or less normal lives.
If that isn’t convincing, think of the lives both Amoxicillin and Azithromycin – powerful, broad-spectrum antibiotics – have saved. Or Metformin, one of the oldest diabetes drugs on the marketplace, and still one of the best blood sugar regulators available. Metformin is also used to treat polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, and may in future be used to treat the symptoms of aging like heart disease, senility, and cancer. It may even be used to extend the human life span to 120 years!
Infamous Recalls: And Then There Was Thalidomide
German pharmaceutical company Grunenthal GmbH received a patent for thalidomide in 1954, and as soon as 1956 began marketing thalidomide for morning sickness, insomnia, coughs, colds, and headaches.
It took another five years for the drug to produce enough deaths and deformities that the public demanded its removal. In 1961, thalidomide was taken off the market after causing serious birth defects in about 10,000 children (half in West Germany), and deaths in another 2,000 children.
Even though thalidomide’s effect on the fetus occupies only a 13-day window, the results were horrendous. Arms and legs failed to develop. Less frequently – but more fatally – organs failed to develop. Thalidomide babies were also born without eyes or ears.
The class action lawsuit in Germany was dropped, presaging the way future pharma lawsuits would be handled if tort reformers got their way. Either that, or lawsuits would be handled out of court, giving lawyer-rich Big Pharma the field advantage in every case.
Case Closed (Sort of) …
The New Zealand thalidomide suit was finally settled in 2013, for $81 million U.S. dollars – a far cry from the actual costs, but better than nothing.
Because the drug was never actively marketed in the United States, thanks to the FDA’s reluctance, no suit has ever been brought to trial successfully. In 2013, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond allowed 50 lawsuits to go ahead, rejecting arguments that the statute of limitations vis à vis thalidomide had run out.
In spite of that, the cases continue to be contaminated with charges of “bad-faith advocacy”, as one firm – attempting to dismiss presumably non-winnable cases en masse – refused to let a special investigator interview the plaintiffs, who were apparently never fully informed of their rights or of the likelihood of success.
One Good Thing …
The thalidomide tragedy prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, to tighten its regulations surrounding drug development. Unfortunately, 15,000 individuals – give or take a hundred – are not enough to oversee the yearly development of about 50 new drugs, and the continuing production of about 500 drugs (out of 1,500 approved since the FDA began its work in 1938).
Even though pharmaceutical development is no longer the “Wild West” of the medical industry, mistakes continue to happen. Drugs continue to find their way into the marketplace with inadequate or improper testing, and the FDA continues to behave, perhaps inevitably, like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Some of the more egregious failures (i.e., drugs dropped from production, recalled, or involved in lawsuits) include Actos, a diabetes drug, fluoroquinolone (an antibiotic), Yaz (birth control), and Zoloft (an antidepressant). In addition, there were the medical scopes from Olympus Corp. – scopes about which an Olympus company official told American executives not to warn hospitals. Not a pharmaceutical, granted, but a good example of how design and manufacturing flaws combined with advertising and sales efforts, can make products dangerous.
If you or a loved one is taking prescription medication, the best advice is “let the buyer beware (caveat emptor)”, because the FDA can’t be everywhere. If you experience side effects or widespread discomfort, consult your doctor. There are other treatments available. You might even want to consider “natural” or holistic remedies, which can range from acupuncture to Ayurvedic or Chinese medicine, – even to herbs, spices and over-the-counter vitamins and supplements.
Walking doesn’t get enough attention. In a world of high-energy, intense workout routines like Crossfit and extreme kayaking, the simple walk often gets left out of the spotlight. To too many people, walking is the Werther’s Original Candy of exercise: plain, unchallenging, and appealing to an unglamorous crowd.
Walking is a great exercise, though, and it has some benefits you’re unlikely to find in other places. Walkers understand that not all workouts have to be high-stress or high-impact. A walk is good for your body and mind. When you start walking, expect to see some of these changes in your life.
Walking will help you lose weight. If you get a brisk walk in for 40 minutes day, you’ll burn a significant amount of calories. Combined with healthy eating routine, walking can be one of the healthiest choices you make each week. And walking is easy. The low stress involved in a daily walk means that you can easily get into the habit. And it gets you off the couch.
Blood Sugar Control
For those of you who need to monitor your blood sugar closely, walking can be the perfect exercise. You’ll burn carbs at a reasonable pace, and—unlike with higher energy workouts—you won’t be in much danger of running your body into hypoglycemic levels (even if your blood sugar gets low, you’ll have to time to feel it coming and react). Of course, speak with your doctor ahead of time before beginning any exercise routine. People’s needs vary from person to person.
Walking helps you on the way to happiness and stability. When you walk, your brain increases production of chemicals associated with good feelings. Beyond chemistry, you’ll simply feel good when you get fresh air, focus on your surroundings, and get your heart rate up. Bonus points if you’re outside—walking in the outdoors, in the presence of trees, wildlife, and running water, imparts strong benefits on the brain.
Walking poses far fewer health risks than do other exercises. As long you stretch, wear good shoes, and pay attention to your body’s needs (and doctor’s orders), you’ll be at low risk for the problems associated with running, such as joint and bone strain, or higher tech exercise—even bicyclists need to watch out for car doors, debris in the roads, etc. As a walker, your likelihood of tripping over a surprise downed branch or struck by a vehicle is much lower than it would be if you were engaging in other exercises.
A Social Life
Walking has the potential to be a very social event. Social engagement is an integral part of your health, believe it or not, and your nightly walk can be an essential part of your social life. Walkers will tell you they have some of the best talks of their lives while out for strolls. Walkers tend to be thoughtful, introspective people with a lot to say. If you put together a walking group, you’ll develop important friendships. You might even strengthen your marriage if you and your spouse make a regular walk date.
We often talk about wanting to live our life to the fullest. We want to life as we want with the freedom to eat and do as we desire without limitations. Unfortunately as we age, our bodies change, and living the lifestyle that you lived in your teen years and even your twenties may not be an option. Who doesn’t love juicy hamburgers, pizzas and sodas? Enjoying life and eating whatever we want is enticing, yet it’s not always practical. What we eat eventually catches up with us and can lead to disease or other issues like a high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
If you are experiencing high blood pressure, it is imperative that you visit a doctor. Your physician will guide you in making specific changes to your lifestyle and diet that can make way for a healthier you. It may require sacrifices that you may not like, but making changes to your diet may the answer to lowering your blood pressure.
The dangers of high blood pressure
High blood pressure can lead to dire health conditions like heart disease, a heart attack, and damage to the heart and arteries. It is no laughing matter. If you’re experiencing any of these conditions, it may be time to make some serious changes to your diet and lifestyle. Be aggressive with your wellness. Start researching ways to lower your high blood pressure!
Some practical ways to lower your blood pressure
Sometimes our blood pressure rises with our daily lifestyle choices. Stress can also be a factor.
Consider the following options to help you keep your blood pressure in check.
Lose weight. It is sad but true that weight gain can affect your blood pressure. Being overweight can disrupt your breathing, and affect your sleep. Losing just ten pounds can help reduce your blood pressure. Women are usually at risk for high blood pressure if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches.
Reduce anxiety. Stress can induce anxiety and cause your blood pressure to rise. Learn to not take the entire world upon your shoulders. You can’t fix everything, so stop trying to. Make it a goal to eliminate stress triggers from your life. And if you’re an anxious eater, try to divert your stress by staying active or doing some yoga.
Limit alcohol consumption Alcohol can reduce your blood pressure if taken in small amounts. But like anything in life, moderation is key. If you enjoy a little wine with a meal or while reading a relaxing book by the fire, try to drink in small amounts. Drinking more than moderate amounts not only raises blood pressure, but it can also reduce the effectiveness of the medications you’re taking for your blood pressure.
Change your eating habits. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains is essential to maintain overall health and wellness. Speak to your physician about a specific diet. Many doctors and medical experts call the Mediterranean diet the answer to a well-balanced meal.
Stay positive and maintain discipline!
Mindset is key in wellness. Eating healthy foods that help you maintain wellness and balance is key to a healthier you. Keep a journal if you must and strive for a healthier lifestyle. You are well worth it!
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