Warm up to stay healthy this winter
Keeping warm is a topic on which I have a lot of personal experience. I’m feeling cold writing this blog, early morning before the heating kicks in. Winter seems to have crept up more slowly than some years, but there’s no mistaking, it’s here now.
I rarely feel the right temperature at the best of times, swinging from cold, to hot, to cold again. And I’m often a different temperature from others around me, at any time of year. This blog focuses on winter, and specifically on ways of keeping warm.
There are different ways that we can try to keep warm, including wrapping ourselves up, eating & drinking certain things, and getting moving. There are also some other useful things that can help us out. I’ll cover all of these below, but I start with some good reasons to protect from the cold.
Why it’s important to stay warm
Being cold can feel pretty miserable. I generally hunch my shoulders more when I feel cold and this can lead to carrying tension inside me.
When the temperature drops, the NHS reports a greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, flu, pneumonia, hypothermia, and falls & injuries. While keeping warm won’t eliminate risks completely, it could put you in a less vulnerable position.
Preventing chillblains. I suffer from these periodically, with particularly bad ones last year. I believe this was triggered by holding a cold glass for several hours in a cold location.
Wrapping up to keep warm
There are a number of different takes on this and to be honest I use all of these at different times. It depends largely on where I am, who I’m with and the situation I find myself in. It’s not always appropriate to wear a large woolly fleece, gloves and hat in a professional setting, for example.
We are prone to losing heat through our extremities, our hands, feet and heads, so gloves, sock and hats seem a good place to start. These can all be a great way to regulate temperature as they’re generally fairly easy to pull on and off (socks can be harder, but not impossible).
My kids and husband often shrink away from my icy hands, even when I’m actually feeling OK. As covered in my winter handsarticle last year, I wear gloves for much of the winter months. I have a variety of gloves for different occasions and sometimes even layer them up when it’s really cold.
My husband bought me some delightful fingerless ones recently to allow me to go about life without having to endlessly take gloves on and off my gloves – very useful.
My feet tend to get a little icy too, so I wear socks of some variety most of the year round, except in the heat of summer. I also layer them up at times for extra warmth. Again, I have a variety of lengths, thicknesses, colours and designs to suit all occasions.
Warm boots and slippers can also help with insulation. Just be careful when you’re out and about not to wear something that could cause you to overheat. This can sometimes feel even worse than feeling cold.
These can be a godsend. Although I’m not really a hat person – I generally look pretty ridiculous – these can work wonders at keeping the warmth in. I’m particularly fond of real wool and I pull them down over my ears for maximum warming effect. Again, I have a couple of different ones to suit different occasions. My hair is generally a disaster afterwards, but comfort often prevails.
Scarves can work wonders at keeping you warm, whether thick, fluffy or fine. I have a variety for different situations and I’ve often got a scarf or two on me for instant flexibility.
Similarly, a Buff (or other multipurpose headgear) can be used as a hat or a scarf in a number of different ways, or can be teamed up with others.
As these are worn close to your skin they are generally bulk-free. Top and bottoms offer maximum impact. Thermals can be great if you need discretion e.g. you’ve got a uniform or need to look a certain way. My son wears them under his school uniform in the winter months, for example. I tend to use them if I know I’m going somewhere really cold or will be outside in the cold for a while. They lack the flexibility of over garments though, so be careful if you’re likely to end up anywhere warm as you may overheat.
Chose materials that work for you in terms of skin sensitivity etc – I prefer to have cotton close to my skin, but cashmere or merino wool can also work.
Layers can be great if you’re not sure what temperature to expect. Rather than one big, thick sweater, wear 2-3 thinner layers that can be stripped of if required.
This article has some great ideas on how best to layer up to keep warm.
Sometimes only something thick will do the job to keep you warm. These are my favourites:
- Down gilet – warn over other garments, perfect for keeping my core warm. Due to the natural materials, this can be great from mid-temperatures upwards.
- Big fleece – I have a couple of great ones for getting cosy at home (not so much in public)
- Woolly jumpers – I have a few in different colours and thicknesses
Some women collect shoes, I’m more of a coat and jacket girl. You name it, I probably have one or more to suit most occasions. I generally favour practicality over style, but I do have some standards!
Fuel to keep warm
We can also fuel our bodies in a certain way to maximum the warming impact.
In my mind, drinks offer the quickest and most flexible way to warm up. You can often also warm your hands up at the same time.
These are a few of my favourite warming drinks:
- Tea / coffee
- Herbal teas & infusions
- Hot lemon water / honey and lemon / lemon and ginger
- Warm milk / hot chocolate
- Hot squash
- Mulled wine or cider – as a special treat!
I also try to avoid chilled water which often leads me to drink less in winter favouring room temperature or even warm water instead.
My favourite warming foods include:
- Porridge – the best way for a warm start for the day
- Soup – homemade, shop bought or drinkable
- Hot sandwich – toastie, panini etc
- Heat up leftovers for lunch (instead of a cold sandwich or salad)
- Anything with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon or chilli in
Here are some further ideas on foods to warm you up.
Move to keep warm
My circulation isn’t the best, despite my healthy lifestyle, so I need to move often to keep the blood circulating. Any days I don’t exercise I am much cooler and sometimes have white fingers or toes where the blood doesn’t quite reach.
Movement can help to raise your temperature in the moment and can also help to improve your blood flow beyond this.
Simple ideas for getting moving include:
- Walk around the house / office
- Get out for a walk
- Exercises at desk
- Taking the stairs instead of lift or escalator
- Dancing – especially with hands above head
Any risks to keeping warm?
Nothing is completely simple. Like many other things in life, there is a balance when keeping warm.
- Dehydration – often when we’re cold we don’t hydrate as much as normal which can be a problem, especially with heating added to the mix
- Overheating – if you’re anything like me, your temperature can go from freezing most of the time to hot, sometimes very quickly. It’s good to have ways to regulate this a little
- Rosy cheeks – this may not affect everyone, but I’m very conscious of having red cheeks and how these can flare up if I warm up too much / too quickly
Feeling cold isn’t a great feeling and can leave us vulnerable to other health issues. Luckily help is at hand. There are various things that we can do to warm up and keep warm during the cold winter months. Key ways include wrapping up, getting moving, and consuming warming food and drink. I’m off for some steaming porridge and hot lemon now….now where are my warm socks and slippers?!
Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.