Snap Out of It: Rebuilding Your Post-Hibernation Health Routine

By Martha Michael

Springtime Joys

If your winter months involved blankets of wool indoors while blankets of snow amassed outdoors, warming up to a new, more active health routine may take some doing. But enduring a little discomfort now -- getting out of snuggle mode and firing up your body again -- will minimize the chance of discomfort later.

No More Snow Job

OK, be honest. If hour-a-day screen time turned to binge watching episodes of “The Crown,” it’ll be tiring to turn that around. And if your “winter break” involved family-sized salad bowls of popcorn, the extra pounds may make it even harder.

But before jumping into a new fitness regimen, the first thing you want to do is assess your health -- get a baseline of wellness so you know where you’re starting from. Your chiropractor is the best bet to get you set up because they can start a record with an initial consultation and exam that includes your Subjective Objective Assessment Plan, or SOAP notes.

Chiropractors document such information as your weight, vital signs and complaints to assess your condition, form a diagnosis, and recommend treatment. With this kind of documentation, you can begin a plan of action and document your progress.

Looking at your current health condition honestly, in part through the feedback of a chiropractor, enables you to strategically spring forward into a new health routine.

Coming Out of Hibernation is a Bear

Changes take place in your body when you’ve been in a dormant state, so when you emerge from the cave to pick up your activity level, there are risks of injury, says an article by the USA Today Network.

When you return to a fitness program after a long break, keep in mind your blood volume is lower and your lungs are less elastic, which makes breathing more difficult. Your heart needs to rebuild strength to provide enough oxygen to your muscles, which may cause a more rapid heartbeat.

Like any new exercise program, you want to start slowly. If you were a long-distance runner, begin by jogging short distances. And if you want to return to weightlifting, don’t start with the same load you left off.

Your warm-up and cooldown time should be extended to minimize the chance of injury to muscles and joints.

“Aim to work out two to three times per week and keep sessions less than 45 minutes for the first two to four weeks,” the article says. “As your fitness builds, usually around the six-week mark, you can add more workouts per week and increase the time spent working out. You will know you are ready to progress when your workout routine is no longer challenging.”

Get Out!

Wellness experts in many fields recommend taking advantage of sunnier days. An article in the Business Insider makes bold claims about the health benefits of spending time outdoors. There’s a lot more to gain than a little Vitamin D, including lower blood pressure, improved mental health and even a decrease in the risk of cancer.

Physical health professionals and psychologists both report research showing positive results from taking it outside, including:

Short-term memory boost - A University of Michigan study shows that walking among trees rather than city streets raises your ability to remember by 20 percent. And research involving depressed individuals found the same -- subjects who take nature walks have better memory capability than those who walk in an urban setting.

Lower levels of inflammation - There is an increasing amount of attention to inflammatory conditions causing such diseases as cancer and autoimmune disorders. Studies find that the bodies of those who spend time in nature tend to have less inflammation than those who stay in the city.

Also, research involving senior citizens shows both a reduction in inflammation and lower levels of hypertension following trips to forested areas.

Less fatigue - Time in restorative environments, from hiking in the mountains to walks in the park, reduces mental fatigue, experts say. Exposure to natural beauty seems to improve brain function and energy levels. Research shows a boost in mental energy when individuals simply view photos of nature but pictures of urban environments cause no detectable changes.

Drop in depression and anxiety - The results of studies involving mood disorders shows evidence of improvement when patients spend time in the great outdoors, especially when they also exercise. Walking through forests reduces anxiety and boosts mood, according to the Journal of Affective Disorders.

“Healthy adults demonstrate significant cognitive gains after nature walks,” researchers say. “Interacting with nature may be useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments for Major Depressive Disorder.”

Coming alive after the dead of winter is a good thing, but there’s no need to emerge from hibernation like a bat out of … well, its cave -- following a seasonal nap. Take it easy and get some advice from your chiropractor first so you only take on what your body can bear.

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