To Beat the Winter Blahs, Commit to Moving Your Body

This guest post is from Jon Stanton of Lansing, Mich. After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Stanton lost 230 pounds by adopting a healthy diet and walking every day.

Winter in Michigan can really drag a person down — if you allow it to. I do my best to stay positive and keep moving despite what’s happening outside, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that winter for me is often a drag both physically and emotionally. I’m a self-declared snowbird even though my wings will likely stay clipped until I’m at least 65.

One thing that definitely keeps me motivated is knowing that I would have never lost 230 pounds without exercise. Despite what many slick advertisements try to tell us, it’s nearly impossible to lose a substantial amount of weight without moving your body. However, people tend to overlook the other benefits of exercise, too. It’s not just about losing weight — exercise also impacts other areas of your life.

Many of us in Michigan suffer from the winter “blues” ─ sometimes referred to as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The main culprit seems to be lack of sunlight. Short, gray, gloomy days make us feel gloomy too. Gloom leads to depression, and many people (myself included) “treat” the depression by moving less and eating more.

I quickly learned during my weight loss experience that the exact opposite is the best treatment for SAD.

Moving your body and eating healthy food increases your metabolism and releases endorphins ─ “feel good” hormones that improve your mood. Exercise actually energizes the body rather than depleting it or making it tired. Yes, you may experience some fatigue after an intense workout, but with regular, consistent exercise, you’ll notice that you have more energy and are more alert after workouts.

When I weighed 430 pounds, I believed the total opposite.

I believed that exercise was evil and that doing it would only make me feel more tired and cause more pain. Obviously, it took a little bit of time for my body to adjust once I made the choice to live a healthy life, but within a month ─ and while still weighing more than 400 pounds ─ I noticed how much more energy I had and how much better my mood was, and I realized that winter was an opportunity, not a curse.

What can you do to get moving this winter? How about taking a walk? Most communities require sidewalks to be kept clear, and walking outdoors when it’s cold actually benefits you more ─ the body has to work harder to keep warm.

If outdoor walking isn’t your thing, go to a mall or a large department store and walk some laps inside. I don’t enjoy treadmills myself, but many people find them helpful during the winter.

If you’re looking for some additional motivation and live in the Lansing area, how about coming out to the Lansing Mall on Saturday mornings for the 2011 Winter Warm-Up featuring the Blues’ Community Challenge? This annual event includes a contest between nine Lansing-area communities to see who can log the most miles in an 8-week period. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan provides a grant prize to every community, with the top 3 receiving higher dollar amounts for a community fitness project. In 2010, we logged 126,000 miles of walking during that year’s 10-week challenge.

Come out and join me – I will be there each week. For more information or to register to log miles for your hometown, visit cphlansing.com.

Photo by withrow.

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