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  • Writer's pictureMurray Kovesy

Maintaining Muscle Health and Wellbeing this Winter

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

During the colder months staying fit and maintaining muscle health and wellbeing can be a challenge. As the temperature drops you need to take extra care of your body to prevent injuries, muscle aches and pains this winter. The cold can affect people in many different ways causing stiff joints, muscle pain and a general lack of motivation for exercise.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), during the colder months, Australians tend to spend an average of 40% less time on physical activities compared to the warmer months. The challenge is keeping moving and not going into complete hibernation, curled up on the couch watching endless hours of TV eating comfort food. Whilst your last thought is getting out and going for a walk, getting to the gym, going for a ride or jumping in the heated pool it is necessary for your health and well-being to keep active.

Muscles respond to movement where without regular exercise neck pain and lower back pain can start to creep in and become a chronic problem. Getting regular activity out in the winter sun can do wonders for your mood. Both exercise and bright light trigger the release of your body’s natural feel-good chemicals like endorphins.

A survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that only 50% of Australian adults meet the recommended physical activity guidelines during winter, which include at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Doing at least 30 minutes moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week helps support your immune system to fight off winter bugs.

Research published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport indicates that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in Australia, especially during winter. The study found that approximately 31% of Australian adults have inadequate vitamin D levels during the colder months. The sunlight on your skin helps increase your levels of bone-building vitamin D.

Maintaining muscle strength and function is crucial particularly during winter, as it can help prevent falls and injuries. Getting regular treatment with Myotherapy and remedial massage prevents the build-up of muscular tension which can affect sleep, mood, vitality and everyday activities.

Follow These 6 Simple Tips to Prevent Stiff Joints and Tight Muscles.

1. Just because it’s raining outside it doesn’t mean you can’t exercise inside. Find the right exercise environment which is both comfortable and supportive. Make use of the indoor heated pool, indoor gym facilities especially sauna and spa or alternatively stay home and do yoga and stretching. You can perform many exercises in your home with little or no equipment. It’s all about staying comfy, healthy and making minimal excuses not to exercise and move.

2. Rug up in appropriate clothing. Time to layer up. If you are prone to neck pain wearing a scarf around your neck can prevent muscles seizing up and joint stiffness from that chill factor. Using a heat pack is always a great method to soothe stiff and tired muscles. It’s always a good idea to use the heat pack before any stretching to avoid straining cold tight muscles and causing more pain.

3. Getting Myotherapy and remedial massage therapy to release and correct muscle imbalances in the body goes a long way. Tightness of the lower back, neck, shoulders and tension headaches are all too common in winter and can impact sleep, mood and flexibility. According to the Australian Government's "Move It Aus" campaign, maintaining muscle strength and function is crucial for Australians, particularly during winter, as it can help prevent falls and injuries related to slippery conditions. Don’t leave it to the last minute to get a physical check-up and maintenance treatment to keep your body happy.

4. Being aware of your posture especially your alignment of the shoulders. With the colder weather we instinctively curl up our shoulders to try and keep warm. Additionally more couch time means extra pressure and strain on the musculoskeletal system. Pick yourself up when you notice your shoulders hiking up and relax and bring them down and back. Also in bed we want to curl up into a ball which is not good for our posture and often means waking up in the morning feeling stiff and sore. A better option is sleeping on your back with a pillow behind your knees as this allows the body to be in a neutral position and recover easier.

5. To prevent feeling sluggish eating right is important. While we put on a few kilos of blubber to keep warm over-eating comfort food can quickly get out of control and have affect on our mood and energy levels. A study of 195 Americans, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed a significant increase in the storage of fat tissue during winter that was not reversed during the following summer. Keeping a healthy immune system and plenty of sleep during the cold and flu season is so important. Maintaining a diet that is high in immunity-boosting foods will keep the weight off and protect you from colds and flu. These include high-alkaline foods such as dark, leafy green vegetables, and seasonal fruits such as oranges.

6. Keeping the right mindset. Keep the mind active and get outdoors to keep the winter blues away. Bad weather and a lack of sunlight can trigger a mild form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is characterised by a lack of energy, increased eating, longer sleep and weight gain. It often strikes during winter when the number of daylight hours is reduced. It can be helped by spending more time outdoors in the fresh air.

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