Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Many of us are seeing our daylight hours getting shorter and the sun going down earlier.
With the change of the clocks, there often comes physical and emotional changes as well.
Shorter days mean less hours of daylight and this can have anywhere from a minor noticeable impact to a complete disruption of one’s health and well-being.
Some common effects of this seasonal change include:
Change of healthy eating
These changes can really throw us for a loop and make us feel completely off our game. It can affect how we focus at work, our interactions with friends and family and simply how we feel waking up every day.
Being mindful of the potential of this disruption can be helpful in preparing for and staying on track when daylight savings time ends.
1. Adjust Sleeping Schedule
Staying on a solid sleeping schedule can go a LONG way to keeping things in balance. Going to bed an hour earlier than usual seems like an obvious solution and it is-however it may not be so easy to put in practice, as your body may not necessarily cooperate with being ready to fall asleep.
Therefore, it is important to adjust your schedule to allow for: eating dinner a bit earlier (even if by thirty minutes), turning off technology at least an hour before you want to sleep, or incorporating a hot shower or bath in your bedtime routine. This can help “prepare” your body to get ready to go to sleep.
2. Change of Healthy Eating
Shorter days for most of us mean colder temperatures and that can wreak havoc on one’s diet. Nothing will drag you over to your nearest comfort food faster than the dark and cold end to a long day! Having fresh, seasonal foods on hand can help to prevent from reaching for less healthy options on a regular basis.
Also, your body actually needs certain nutrients more so in the darker days of winter. Here are some vitamins that can become depleted with decreased exposure to sunlight and what foods you can eat to get more of them:
Vitamin C- oranges, lemons (citrus in general), chili peppers, blackcurrants, thyme, parsley, kale, kiwi, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, papayas, and strawberries
Vitamin A-liver, cod liver oil, salmon, blue fin tuna, goat cheese, hard boiled eggs, trout
Vitamin E-wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds (and the oil), hazelnuts (and the oil), abalone, pine nuts, peanuts, avocado, salmon, trout, turnip greens
Vitamin D-salmon, canned tuna, cod liver oil, egg yolks, mushrooms
** vitamin D requires calcium to be properly absorbed so be sure to incorporate calcium rich foods as well- cheese, yogurt, dark leafy greens, figs, seafood
3. Decreased Activity Levels
It is not at all uncommon for decreased sunlight hours contribute to depressed moods and fatigue. These also lead to decreased motivation to stay active, which in turn, leads to depressed moods and fatigue!
If you are someone who enjoys a lot of activity outdoors, then the time change can put a crimp in your fitness routine. Changing things up such as taking a walk on your lunch break, riding your bike to do nearby errands, or working out in the morning may be necessary to keep your outdoor activities going.
If those are not realistic for your schedule, then embracing indoor exercise can keep your fitness levels up. Either going to a facility or taking classes online in your home-yoga, Pilates, stretching (you can get 5 simple body stretches here), cardio-are all available to help you keep your body moving.
In addition, less exercise can result in more stiffness and pain, so it is important to keep your fitness activities up so stave off discomfort which can lead to fatigue, depression, lack of activity, and poor eating habits!
Four to six percent of people (10 million Americans) are severely affected by the decrease of sunlight exposure and this can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Another 10 to 20 percent are affected with mild symptoms. SAD is characterized by depressed moods, sadness, loneliness, insomnia, social withdrawal, and general lack of interest in normal activities.
This can be alleviated by increased exposure to sunlight and many people find great help using lamps that simulate natural sunlight called a light therapy box.
Light therapy boxes can be purchased online and the Mayo clinic provides information and specifics for use. You can read about them here.
Finally, the shorter days can give you an opportunity to take on projects in the house, organize that closet you have been ignoring, or learning a new hobby/skill that interests you. The increased activity around the house also contributes to maintaining your moods, sleep habits and fitness levels, as well as being productive with often ignored projects!
The time change does not have wreck your health and well-being, you just have to know how to combat the impact of the changes.
Staying on top of your health and fitness does not have to go out the window when the sun goes down.
Stay Well & Feel Good,
Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.
Hi! I am Dr. Kim MacDonald. I am a physical therapist who specializes in empowering my patients to optimize how they move their bodies and improve their ability to do the things they love regardless of age, experience, or capabilities.
My experience in the health care field allows me to teach the tools you need to ensure that you are working safely to improve your pain and maximize your physical potential.
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