In the winter when temperatures drop, many of us start to have some health concerns, like how can I avoid getting sick? and how do I keep my hands and feet warm?
Both of these thoughts come into my mind on a regular basis. I am one of many who suffer from Raynaud’s Phenomenon—a condition that causes decreased blood flow to the hands and toes—and I have to manage “attacks” more often in the winter because of the falling temps. Anytime I’m in a space that is colder than 55 degrees, my hands begin to feel cold and the tips of my fingers turn white. If I don’t take appropriate measures, they can quickly become numb and painful.
You may think “Mary, why don’t you just stay inside where it’s warm?” My answer: Because I love the outdoors, even in the winter. Being outside is very peaceful and nurturing for my soul. Some of my favorite ways to exercise include snowshoeing, downhill skiing, and ice skating.
In fact, research shows exercising outside in cold weather boosts your Vitamin D intake, which may help ward off seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and improve your mood. With your body working harder to regulate your temperature and circulate blood, you’ll burn more calories and strengthen your heart. Outdoor exercise also stimulates your senses, making you feel more alive.
The good news is there are things we can do to stay active outside in colder weather and stay warm.
What You Didn’t Know About Your Circulatory System
Your circulatory system is a combination of your cardiovascular and lymphatic systems. Whatever position your body is in and whether you’re moving or stationary, your heart pumps blood throughout your body. It is a regular and reliable process. Your lymphatic system, on the other hand, relies on movement, gravity, and pressure to help move fluid around.
Circulation is about more than having warm fingers and toes. It also plays a role in preventing illness and keeping other body systems functioning properly. Circulation boosts immunity. With good circulation, the white blood cells in your immune system will be transported around the body more easily, helping get rid of waste and other unwanted materials.
Committing to a regular exercise routine (indoors and/or outdoors) helps to build and maintain a healthy circulatory system. So when you do go outdoors and it’s cold, your body will already be equipped to keep you warm and healthy.
Activities to Boost Your Circulatory & Immune Systems
Take deep, diaphragmatic (abdominal) breaths: Deep belly breathing creates a pumping action that stimulates the lymph system. Breath work and meditation helps lower blood pressure and heart rate as well as decrease stress in the mind and body.
Stay hydrated: Keeping your body hydrated helps your heart pump blood more easily and allows oxygen to reach your muscles, helping them work efficiently.
Get a massage or dry brush: Applying pressure to the body stimulates the blood and lymph vessels, helping move the fluid along. Both massage and dry brush help with blood circulation, tissue regeneration, recovery from certain illnesses, and overall healing of the body.
Eat Healthy: Eating enough nutrients as part of a healthy, varied diet supports the health and function of all cells, including immune cells. Each stage of the body’s immune response relies on the presence of many micronutrients, such as Vitamins A, C, D, and E, zinc, selenium, iron, and protein. No single food or nutrient will prevent illness. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is key.
Shake it up with vibration or rebound therapy: The up-and-down rhythmic gravitational force caused by jumping on a trampoline (aka: rebounding) causes the lymphatic system’s one-way valves to open and close, increasing lymph flow. Whole body vibration can also be a very beneficial therapeutic modality. Vibration activates the muscle, circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems, offering many of the benefits of regular exercise.
Exercise regularly: Regular aerobic activity that gets your heart pumping, like walking, running, swimming, or cycling, is good for the heart and blood vessels. Resistance training adds to muscle mass, which increases the efficiency of the circulatory system. Yoga is good for many reasons—from muscle contraction to breathing, digestion, blood flow, and circulation.
Get started today with this quick 20-minute yoga practice to boost your immunity and circulation:
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