5 Winter Workouts That Will Make You Look Forward to Winter!

When darkness comes early, the bitter cold and grey skies can wreak havoc on your motivation to exercise during the winter months.

We can all agree that it’s way easier to stay in bed or on the couch in a comfy sweatshirt and sweatpants, rather than changing into lightweight workout gear to exercise.

However, the cold months are a great opportunity to embark on the journey of trying new workouts or embracing exercise through other methods and making the most of the cold!

Here’s a list of the best way to burn calories during the winter:

1. Shoveling Snow

Some consider inches of snow as a hassle, but I see it as an opportunity to work some muscles that don’t typically get attention.

Harvard’s Medical School estimates you can burn 223 calories per 30 minutes of snow shoveling.  If your own driveway/sidewalk doesn’t take 30 minutes, consider shoveling a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk – bonus points with your neighbors!

In addition to being a great cardio workout, depending on the intensity that you’re working, shoveling also works muscles in the legs, back, shoulders and arms.

And the heavier the snow, the better the workout!

2. Sledding

A favorite childhood past-time, sledding is a HUGE calorie burner. You can burn approximately 480 calories per hour sledding – and an hour goes fast when you’re having so much fun!

While hills are easy going down, walking up to the top is going to do wonders for your legs and butt.  Plus, the cardio effects are tremendous.

Visit your local Walmart, invest in a cheap sled or toboggan and go kill those hills.  No children required, but if you have them or can borrow a few,  you will make a kid’s day while getting your workout in.

Bonus calories for pulling a child up the hill!

3. Take a Peaceful Winter Wonderland Walk

Ever notice how quiet it is outside during the winter months? Especially after 8 PM when people are done with work or after work activities and are curled up inside.  While you may prefer a warm and sunny walk, a winter walk can actually be quite peaceful.

The tranquilness of darkness, merged with the brightness of the moon reflecting off the snow is a fantastic time to burn some calories walking, while reflecting on the day.

Grab those snow boots, bundle up and enjoy the peace and quiet of the outdoors this time of year.

Plus, you’re burning more calories walking in the winter vs walking outside in the summer.  This is due to the extra weight of clothing and the energy needed to warm the body up.

4. Ice Skating

For a large part of my adult life, I was intimidated by ice-skating.  As a slightly uncoordinated person, I drove past my local outdoor rink,  jealous of all the skaters having a blast.

But once I embarked on the ice, after a couple times around the rink, holding the edges, it was easy!  And I was sore – especially my core and legs.  So I knew it was a great workout.

This calorie burner can burn around 400 calories per hour!

Plus,  ice skating can be made into a social event or go on your own!

5. Try a New Fitness Class

Winter is the absolute best time to get out and try new fitness classes at your local gym or studio.

Many of us will admit that when it gets dark at 5 PM,  finding projects around the home or going out to a social gathering is pretty much not going to happen.

What better way to spend the dark nights than to get out and try a new fitness class.  Especially when you may have just been watching TV on the couch, burning next to zero calories anyways! 

New classes are popping up every day, so go out and try something new, like a Barre, Yoga, Cardio, Chisel, or a HIIT class.

With new year’s resolutions, classes will likely be busy with many new people, so the intimidation factor is low.  Plus, you’ll probably make a few new friends!

So make this the winter that you keep up your fitness motivation.  Don’t let the cold or snow ruin your plans! 

Get out and embrace winter with a new activity….starting today!

Running Out of Steam Running? Try Checking Your Ferritin Levels

Nothing is more frustrating as a runner than suddenly becoming “slow” !  Especially after tons of training, building up speed and endurance.

While there are many health and environmental factors that may be attributed,  one commonly overlooked reason is low ferritin levels.

What is ferritin? Basically the body’s storage tank of iron, like the gasoline in a car.

One study found that iron depletion was present in 28% of female runners!

Why? As a runner, the pounding impact of the feet hitting the ground with such a powerful force causes an abnormal breakdown of red blood cells. This often contributes to the loss of iron.

While iron-deficiency anemia is one of the most common deficiencies in females, it is far more common to be iron-deficient without having anemia.  Many physicians will typically run tests checking 2 levels of iron in the blood –  hemoglobin and hematocrit levels.  They will often not check ferritin.

Often cases, in non-professional athletes, the hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are totally normal.  But without the testing of ferritin, you may not know the whole picture.  Ferritin storage levels are extremely important and can be causing an array of symptoms if low.

Back to the car example, low ferritin is like running your car on fumes; while it may still run, it’s slow and eventually, the car will not be able to run anymore, unless it’s gas is restored.

Having low ferritin is like constantly running on fumes! 

Ferritin lab value ranges are quite large.   The values can range from 20 – 500 ng/mm for men and 20-200 ng/mm for women.  Tests may show a range considered normal, but teetering on the low end will not help with speed and endurance.

What should you do if your lab values show low ferritin levels?  Consult with a physician.  The physician most likely will recommend an iron supplement.

Take note –  do not take a supplement without knowing your ferritin levels because the kidneys cannot excrete excess iron in the urine.  Iron overload can be toxic to the body!

The moral of the story is get your ferritin levels tested if your running is causing you to run out of steam quickly!

Is Oatmeal Really the Healthiest Breakfast Option?

Walking through the grocery store, staring at food labels and trying to make healthy choices can be an overwhelming experience, especially when the packaging is screaming at with claims such as “all-natural”, “low-fat”, “gluten-free” and other persuasive terms.  Many claims on the front of food packages are approved by the FDA and follow strict guidelines. For example, a food item labeled, “low-sodium” constitutes the item must contain < 140 mg of sodium.  However, other claims such as “natural” or “pure” really are just marketing terms and have no legal definition.   Basically, any food manufacture could throw those on the package.

One common FDA approved claim is the health claim in which food manufacturers can label foods that have scientifically established benefits for disease prevention.

Oatmeal is plastered with health claims such as this:

With the high fiber content in oatmeal, it has highly been deemed a health food.  One cup of oatmeal typically contains about 170 calories, 30 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat and 4 grams of fiber.   With the daily recommendation for fiber of 25 grams, eating a cup of oatmeal gets you 16% there.

And while there is no arguing that oatmeal is good for you, is it better than 2 eggs a day?  You never see loads of heart-healthy health claims on eggs!

A recent study compared the effects of consuming two eggs per day for breakfast vs heart-healthy oatmeal to compare the biomarkers of cardiovascular disease risk and satiety measures.  In the study, 50 participants were randomly selected to consume either two eggs or one packet of oatmeal for breakfast for four weeks.  After the study, blood samples were collected.

The study found that participants consuming 2 eggs for breakfast:

·       Felt more satisfied prior to eating dinner

·       Had an increase of LDL and HDL cholesterol.  HDL is considered good cholesterol and LDL is bad cholesterol (aka artery blocking). However, looking at the LDL/HDL ratio, the good canceled out the bad.

·       Had lower plasma ghrelin concentrations.  Ghrelin is an appetite stimulant, meaning the more that is produced in the body, the hungrier one is.

While eggs are often not labeled with the “heart healthy” marketing claim that oatmeal often contains, it may be a healthier alternative for breakfast.

Looking to get the fiber benefits from oatmeal with your eggs?  That’s easy, just add vegetables such as:

·       Onions

·       Spinach

·       Broccoli

·       Peppers

·       Mushrooms

·       Tomatoes

And a sliced avocado on top is the icing on the eggs!

Too Much Iodine Killing Your Thyroid?

Dry skin, weight gain, depression, constipation, tiredness, and forgetfulness are symptoms that may have several underlying causes, but for many these symptoms are due to the body’s cells not receiving enough thyroid hormone because of a condition called hypothyroidism.

Many internet blogs and posts in the United States promote ways to heal they thyroid with iodine-rich foods such as seaweed, eggs, and seafood because of the correlation between iodine and the thyroid.  While these are all very healthy foods, iodine is most prevalent in something many of us consume too much-of….fortified table salt!

The question becomes, are Americans deficient enough in iodine to need to eat compensate by eating iodine-rich foods? Probably not and while Goiter, an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland, is most commonly caused by iodine deficiency and was a prevalent condition in the U.S. up until the 1920’s, it is rarely seen today in developed parts of the world.

The bigger issue becomes the fact that studies have found high iodine intake is frequently associated with Autoimmune thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypothyroidism.  A recent study conducted in a southern Italian village, compared 1411 people from 1995 to 1148 in 2010, following the introduction of the salt iodization program.  The prevalence of hypothyroidism was found to be higher in 2010 vs. 1995 at 5.0 % vs. 2.8%, respectively.  That’s almost double!

So, are there any foods that will “heal the thyroid”?  Science is conflicted and not much research has been conducted, but below two healthy options to consider that won’t have negative consequences on health.

  • Brazilian nuts – with the thyroid containing more of the mineral Selenium per gram of tissue than any other organ, Brazilian nuts contain over 100% of the daily recommended value.  According to the National Institute of Health, Selenium is vital for reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and DNA.
  • Vitamin D supplement – while a correlation between hypothyroidism and vitamin D deficiency has been found, scientists have not found a conclusion on whether hypothyroidism causes vitamin D deficiency or vitamin D deficiency causes hypothyroidism.  However, with so many people deficient in Vitamin D, taking a supplement is of minimal cost with low side effects.

Another idea is limiting intake of table salt and getting iodine from healthy sources which are seaweed, eggs, and seafood rather than relying on the fortified table salt.  It’s all about balance!

And are there any foods that are detrimental to the thyroid?  While this may sound comical, studies have found that consuming more than 2.2lbs per day for several months of Russian/Siberian kale of the species B. Napus, some collards, and Brussel sprouts was found to have a negative effect on the thyroid. And while these foods are super healthy, it’s almost laughable to think of someone consuming what would be the equivalent of over 11 cups of Brussel sprouts every day for months!  Talk about a cleanse!