Living in Bozeman we get to enjoy some of the best winter activities with the best conditions found anywhere! Winter is a great time of year to be outside and ski, ice skate, ice climb, snowshoe, build a snowman, snow mobile, have a snowball fight, and many other fun outside activities. Unfortunately with being outside in the winter comes the possibilities of getting cold and ruining the fun that you are having.
Your body has temperature regulation that helps to warm you up when you are cold and cool you down when you are hot. This is very important because your physiology is dependent on the temperature of your body. The cells and proteins of the body can take a different shape depending on the temperature, if they are to hot the proteins can denature which means they will no longer do their job, and if we are to cold we develop hypothermia which will also affect our physiology and cause our body to shut down. It is about finding balance and making sure your body works efficiently to keep your temperatures regulated.
Your metabolism controls the fires of your body like a damper on a wood stove. The faster your metabolism, the more energy your body can produce. Your metabolism means how fast and efficiently your body can utilize your energy to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the energy molecule of the body. Your body uses two types of energy, fat and sugar. Sugar comes from carbohydrates and burns very quickly and inefficiently. Fats are found in both plants and animals and produce 36 times more energy than carbohydrates. Our body can be adapted to burning fat more efficiently through cardiovascular training, and the consumption of fewer carbohydrates.
Your metabolism is affected by your hormones especially your thyroid hormones and your adrenal hormones. The thyroid really controls the body’s thermostat. Classic signs of hyperthyroid are having a lot of energy, not being able to shut down and rest, and uncontrolled weight loss. Hypothyroid is the opposite, there is lack of energy, feeling very tired often, and having uncontrolled weight gain, and also feeling cold. The adrenals are the stress handling glands of the body, and secrete many hormones that affect stress patterns and body energy also, like adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol reduces the body’s ability to burn fat because it wants to save it for burning later due to stress. Homeostasis is the body being in balance. The search for balance is like standing on a balance board, there is always minor corrections being made to keep in balance. The better the balance the less movement up and down, the worse the balance the greater the up and downs are to try and find balance. The more stable the base the easier it is to find balance. The skinnier the base the more precarious the balance becomes. Having a greater health foundation keeps your body in balance easier and keeps your metabolism working appropriately.
Keeping your metabolism firing more efficiently goes back to having a stable health foundation, which means eating well, moving well and thinking well. Especially in the winter we want to make sure we are packing in high quality food with enough calories from fat, good quality protein, and more complex carbohydrates, and not a lot of refined carbohydrates like sugar. This will keep our energy production more efficient and our body in the fat burning cycles instead of switching back to the carbohydrate metabolism and not creating as much energy.
Moving well is important for our metabolism too. Movement of the body increases circulation to bring more nutrients and oxygen to the cells so you can make energy. Maintaining regular workouts throughout the year and especially in the winter to keep your heart rate up and prime the fat burning pumps will actually keep you warmer by being able to increase your body temperature faster when you get cold. Keeping your body flexible and stretching often is also important for increasing circulation. If your body is tight the blood and body fluids do not move as efficiently which will make you colder. We think when we contract our body “balling up” we feel warmer from the immediate increase of energy from the contraction of the muscle but it is only temporary relief, its best to stay loose, keep moving and breath deeply.
All stretching is good for you, but in the winter to increase circulation my two favorite exercises are chest muscle stretches, pectoralis major and minor, and stretching the hip flexors the psoas muscles. Stretching the chest muscles I find is best done in a door jam. Stand in the door jam with your hands on the door jam and your elbows directly under your hands. Without moving your hands step through the door jam feeling a stretch in the chest, and hold for at least 20-30 seconds. To stretch the hip flexors you want to be in a lunge position with your knee on the floor, chest upright feeling a stretch in the upper aspect of the hip. Stretching these 2 areas helps with lymphatic circulation and blood flow through the body. Keeping hydrated is also very important to staying warm. The more fluid you have in your body, the better your circulation to move your oxygen to make more energy. It is easy to forget about drinking water when your out in the cold, but you will stay much warmer if you do. With a little preparation and thinking about how your physiology works to keep you warm you can keep your internal fire burning bright on those cold winter days and stay outside longer and have more fun leading a more natural, more healthy and more optimal life.
Dr. Phil Cameron DC is the owner of the Bozeman Wellness Center. He is a Chiropractic Physician and Professional Applied Kinesiologist. He treats every patient based on his or her individual healthcare needs and strives to help each patient Live Healthy, Live Naturally, and Live Optimally. Visit www.bozemanwellnesscenter.com for more information.