Get Light and Lively to

🕔Jan 29, 2009

Picture this: you’re sitting in your house, contemplating how high your gas bill is and how much it will cost to pay someone to shovel the mountains of snow that cover your once-green lawn. Added to this, there is the stress of being in the middle of a pounding economic downturn with job losses and belt-tightening all around.

Besides having plenty to worry about, there’s not a lot to do when it’s 10 to 20 below outside. It can be downright lonely and depressing. It’s a one-two punch that nobody wants! According to the Cleveland Clinic Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, “Seasonal depression, which affects between four and six percent of the population—often called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD—is a depression that occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in fall or early winter and ending in spring or early summer. 10 to 25 percent of people may suffer a more mild form of ‘winter blues’ or ‘cabin fever.’”

One recommended and proven method to help prevent the onset of SAD, or lessen its symptoms, is…yes, the dreaded E-word: exercise! It’s an important part of beating winter stress, and by including a little of it every day you will find tremendous improvement in your attitude and demeanour. When you engage in a good aerobic workout you get your heart pumping, and this releases endorphins into your system. Endorphins are the natural feel-good hormones which not only make you feel happier and less stressed, but give your body more energy as well.

It doesn’t have to be a lot and it doesn’t have to take all the time in the world; it just requires that you do it consistently and with the right intensity to get results. You don’t need a lot of equipment, you don’t need to join a gym, and you don’t even need to hire a trainer. You just have to get off your butt and do something—that’s how simple it is. In fact, you don’t even need to leave your living room or miss a single minute of TV!

Try this workout. (I call it the “get your butt off the couch workout.”)

1. Pick three or four exercises—like a push-up, a squat, an abdominal curl and a lunge (though it could just as well be any others). If you have any exercise equipment that has been lying under a bed collecting dust, you can incorporate that as well.

2. Every time an ad comes on TV, get your butt off the couch, do 10 of each and then sit back down.

Workout over! Don’t tell me you can’t do that!

Think about it: an advertisement comes on every 10-20 minutes so you’ll have done 30-60 reps over the course of an hour. That’s probably a lot more than most people are doing at the moment, doesn’t cost a penny, takes no time out of your day whatsoever…AND you can still watch your favourite TV show!
If you’re a little fitter and you’re worried that this won’t provide enough challenge for you, then try this instead:

1. Pick the same three to four exercises (or others, as you desire).

2. Whenever an advertisement comes on, get your butt off the couch, perform 10 of one, move to the next and the next and the next, continuing the circuit until the ads are finished (on average three minutes).

I guarantee that you’ll get an amazing workout if you do this just once. Do it throughout the evening and you’ll be stunned at how much work you’ve done.

So there you go—the ultimate indoor cabin-fever-busting workout!
Another important component to battling SAD, of course, is to get exposure to natural daylight. So make the most of short winter days by spending as much time outdoors as possible. Even just one hour of natural daylight can help prevent SAD from taking hold of your life. Take a daily walk (preferably at noon when the sun’s rays are strongest), take the kids sledding, go skiing or even just walk to the corner store instead of driving. Arrange your home setting to let in as much natural light as you can. Leave the lights off and the curtains open, and move furniture and exercise equipment closer to windows so you can soak up the healing rays of the sun.

So, if you think you may be at risk of being a SAD person, or if you just want a more pleasant and stress-free winter, let some light into your life and get your butt off the couch!