The holiday season offers such tempting fare as sweet potato casserole (460 calories and 16 grams of fat per seven ounce serving), pecan pie (500 calories and 27 grams of fat per slice), and eggnog (300 calories and 17 grams of fat per cup, and that doesn’t even include the rum). The options are plentiful enough to propagate this myth: The average adult gains five to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Maybe not, says Dr. Anne Butsch of Evansville Integrative Medicine. “The weight gain is not inevitable,” she says, “but can easily accumulate if one does not remain vigilant.” We asked the doctor about other winter health myths, and we learned many cold-weather ailments stem from a lack of vitamin D.
Winter workouts burn more calories.
False. It is true that during winter workouts the body produces excess heat, burning more calories than other times of the year. However, during the summer months, the body loses a greater amount of fluids in perspiration. “In the end,” says Butsch, “it probably doesn’t matter in real life.”
Winter workouts cause more joint pain.
True. Our body’s joints act similar to barometers, says Butsch, reacting to the cooler weather by swelling slightly. That’s more joint pressure. “There are also a number of studies showing a connection between joint pain and low vitamin D levels,” says Butsch. “Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, but one has to live south of Atlanta to get adequate sunshine exposure year round.” Preventive strike: Warming, through stretching, exercise, and warm clothing, reduces joint pain. Plus, try to use a supplement with vitamin D to alleviate joint pain.
The body requires more sleep in the winter months to improve workout.
False. “People do tend to sleep more in winter months,” Butsch says, “but that is because of the change in circadian rhythms. Darkness triggers the pineal gland to secrete melatonin. More darkness equals more melatonin, which equals more desire to sleep. In addition, less sunlight exposure means less vitamin D production, and vitamin D is necessary for production of serotonin. When serotonin levels fall, we have less energy and lower mood and that can lead to less motivation to work harder.” Preventive strike: Stay on a schedule with a sufficient amount of sleep each night.
You are more likely to catch a cold working out in the winter.
True. The weather brings more people inside. For example, everyone works out in the gym rather than in the fresh air. “In addition, more people are touching surfaces and transferring germs from one person to another,” Butsch says. And again, a familiar foe, low vitamin D levels lower immune resistance to upper respiratory tract infections. Preventive strike: Drink plenty of water and wash your hands often.