Fitness Facts: Change helps beat the winter blues

Like a lot of students, I’m trying to cope with the constant cold weather these days. Meanwhile, I feel like I’m running on empty regardless of how many hours I sleep — and what about motivation? My good friend motivation left me high and dry weeks ago.

When it seems that the whole world is painted in shades of brown and blah, it’s relatively easy to slip into a winter slump.

Even through all of this, there is hope. Spring is right around the corner, but you don’t have to wait for March 20 to bring you that much-anticipated breath of fresh air.

I’ve found that little changes in my daily routine, like trying something new, have huge effects on my overall well-being. Hey, I’m not the only one who thinks this — experts agree.

For those of you who don’t work out, you are missing a great energy boost. Exercise has the power to put that spring back into your step. Not only does it improve your mood, but it can also help you sleep better and handle school work with greater ease.

We’ve all heard of “runner’s high,” and while it might seem to be a myth, it’s not. This is partially because of the way your body feels upon the release of endorphins, the best natural high there is. You experience it from many different types of actions, such as a hard workout or a good laugh.

There are a variety of classes offered at the Student Recreation Center, like salsa dancing and kick boxing. Try one! What have you got to lose?

Alan Hirsch, M.D., neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, says that there are easy ways for us to experience all the power that endorphins have to offer us. Think positive thoughts. Work out. Get acupuncture. Laugh. Eat a chili pepper. Do something you’re afraid of. Wait, eat a chili pepper?

“Chewing a hot pepper can release endorphins centrally and on the tongue,” Hirsch said. You can get a rush after eating just one chili pepper because your body’s natural protective reaction kicks in.

The point of this isn’t for you to go out and get your mouth on the first pepper you can find, but to step out of your comfort zone. I’ve found that this is the ultimate way to beat the monotony of winter.

Another thing to consider is the power of Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin.” Studies show that it plays a significant role in mood and depression.

When you consume foods with Vitamin D, the reaction is similar to what happens when you soak up some sun. According to experts, 40 percent of Americans are lacking the necessary amount of Vitamin D. Some D-rich foods include salmon, cheese and egg yolks.

Don’t forget about sunshine! It’s a natural way to get this much-needed vitamin. On sunny days, a simple walk around campus can lead to a better mood.

Today, I imagine we all will probably go to class, eat dinner or do another routine activity, like hang out with our friends. But somewhere in that time, I hope a couple of us manage to try something new. I hope some will decide to attempt a new workout or go sit on a bench by the lake and have a good laugh with friends. Either way, we can all decide to take the reins of our lives and not let winter get the best of us.

Amanda Sandlin is a sophomore journalism major.

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