Guide to Staying Active During COVID-19 Winter
Now more than ever, it’s important we all take the time to prioritize our health and wellness. As we head into winter, while also navigating the pandemic, staying active and healthy may be more challenging than usual. We were lucky enough to speak with a number of Bloor-Yorkville health and wellness experts who shared their vast knowledge with us. Below, you’ll find our guide to staying active throughout the winter, tips for maintaining a healthy immune system, and tools for managing overall wellness.
Staying Active this Winter
with Jenn Howey of InsideOut Physiotherapy & Wellness Group
In terms of staying active throughout the winter, it’s all about preparation. “Whether a winter enthusiast or novice, you must prepare your body to avoid injury and set up for success,” says Jenn Howey, founder of InsideOut Clinic. Whether its skiing, snowshoeing, or even just a winter hike, the prep work is what makes all the difference.
Howey and her team are experts in injury prevention, offering clients personalized assessments both in-person and virtually. Howey maintains that the foundation for staying active is rooted in good balance and a strong core. She offers the below exercises as two great options for getting started:
Balance: Squat holds on BOSU ball or firm pillow.
Stand on a BOSU or firm pillow with feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and push your hips back as you lower to approximately 45 degrees. Stop at any point of knee pain. Keep your back long and stomach engaged. Make sure your knees don’t go past the toes. Hold this position for as long as you can, working up to 1-2 minutes. Repeat until legs feel mildly fatigued.
Advanced: Shift your weight side to side while maintaining balance and core control.
Core: Side Plank with Leg Lift
Start in a modified side plank position with your lower leg bent at the knee and pressing into the floor to lift your hips. Maintain a straight spine by using your core and shoulder muscles.
While keeping your torso stable, raise your top leg without bending your knee. Do not let your hips drop. Return to starting position. Repeat 10-15 times. 2 sets per side.
InsideOut Physiotherapy & Wellness Group
1240 Bay Street, Suite: #502
When it comes to health and nutrition, Dr. Caroline Lewis emphasizes building a solid foundation with a healthy immune system by “… eating unprocessed, whole foods. Think of the foods you eat as information for your body, providing the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients we need for our different body systems (such as your immune system) to optimally function.”
Why We Should Eat the Rainbow for Immune Health
When it comes to our daily food habits, embracing a variety of colour can directly link to our immune health. Dr. Lewis explains, “Bioflavonoids are plant-based compounds that create the colour pigment of fruits and veggies, which have immune-supportive, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties!” Eating a variety of these foods will provide your body with a wide range of nutrients, and also help support a diverse gut microbiome. As many of our immune cells are located in the gut, it’s important to support our gut health, especially when we may be more susceptible to infection during colder seasons and periods of increased stress.
Meal Ideas for Fall and Winter
Winter is the perfect time to add warming, comforting foods into your diet that also support a healthy gut and immune system! Things like bone broth, butternut squash, and roasted vegetables are some nutrient-dense ideas for meal prepping, as well as anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and fennel.
Pro tip: Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) require fat to be optimally absorbed by our bodies, so plant-based fats like coconut, avocado and extra-virgin olive oils can be great additions to your meals!
When it comes to avoiding the “winter slump,” Dr. Lewis doesn’t deny it’s hard to combat the desire to “Netflix and chill” (especially when it’s dark by 5:00 pm). Noting that any sort of movement is essential, it can be either “10 minutes of gentle yoga or 45 minutes on your Peloton.”
Making Time for Mindfulness
While it’s impossible to avoid stress entirely, Dr. Lewis suggests taking a mindful approach to how we manage our stressors. Being in a state of chronic stress can lead to inflammation and the suppression of our immune systems. She suggests taking time daily to practice techniques such as “deep abdominal breathing, spending time in nature, writing daily gratitude’s and affirmations,” and to remember to connect with friends and loved ones over FaceTime and Zoom.
Circling back to nutrition and immune support, Lewis notes that the gut and brain directly communication with each other, “… so our mental health can affect and also be affected by our gut health, which is another reason why supporting both of these is important for our wellbeing.”
Dr. Lewis is a Naturopathic Doctor and Functional Medicine Practitioner works with her patients at ONE80 to develop customized plans to support a healthy body and mind.
Supplements and Immune Health
from Ginkgo Health Shop
Ginkgo Health Shop, located at the Holt Renfrew Centre, has been a family run business for over 25 years. With in-house nutritionists, their team curates a selection of products that are always up to date with the latest health research.
When it comes to staying healthy throughout the winter, the team at Gingko stresses the importance of getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night and staying hydrated throughout the day. Women should aim for 11.5 cups of water and men should aim for 15.5 cups. Noting that a healthy diet, sleep, hydration, and movement all play a key role in one’s health, there are also a number of health supplements that can help support one’s immune system while providing anti-viral support.
Throughout the winter their team suggests incorporating the following supplements:
Vitamin D (immune support)
Probiotics (maintain digestive system health, help improve mood and immune function)
Green Tea (immune support and contains l-theanine which promotes relaxation)
Vitamin C (immune support)
Quercetin (acts as an anti-viral and antioxidant)
Elderberry (anti-viral properties)
Gingko Health Shop is currently open during the latest COVID restrictions in Toronto. Their team is available for in-person consultations, but they also offer online shopping and can be reached online here.
Ginkgo Health Shop
50 Bloor Street West
Please note: The information provided above is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for the medical advice of a physician.