Physical Therapy and the Winter Blues

  • January 14, 2021
Winter exercise

What are the winter blues?

Have you ever experienced the winter blues or wondered what causes them? It seems like once the holidays are behind us, the never-ending, bleak winter can take a toll on many people. The change of seasons and lack of light during the winter months can cause a depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder is also known as SAD for short.
The exact cause of SAD is unknown but commonly sets in during the winter because people are not getting as much sunlight. SAD affects your circadian rhythm, serotonin levels, and melatonin levels. In this article, we’re going to discuss how to overcome SAD and how physical therapy can help.

SAD can cause issues and symptoms, like difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, depression, anxiety, weight gain, apathy, and more. It is estimated that over 10 million Americans suffer from SAD. Some may not be aware that they have it. If you’re feeling blue this winter, know that you are not alone and, there are steps you can take to prevent and beat it.

Even though it can feel difficult, there are some ways to treat SAD and stave off the winter blues. There’s no need to deal with this alone, so Forward Motion Physical Therapy did some research. We’ll be digging into some of the ways you can treat SAD.

How to help overcome SAD:

  1. Get moving!
    Exercising is one of the best ways to treat depression. When you exercise, it releases feel-good hormones known as endorphins which help combat depression. The thought of exercising when you are feeling down, however, can be daunting. If the idea of doing a HIIT exercise or going for a run is too much for you, start small. Go for a five-minute walk outside, do some gentle yoga, or do an activity that you enjoy. The goal is to get moving! Any way that you decide to get moving and active is a great start. Physical therapy is also a great way to get moving because chronic pain and depression are often tied together. Doing what works best for you is ultimately what you should be doing.
  2. Try light therapy.
    Light therapy is one of the best ways to help with SAD. It is theorized that SAD is linked to the lack of light people get during the winter. Light therapy is one of the best treatments for SAD. Getting outside in the sun for 15 minutes a day and getting some sunlight is ideal. We should all be going outside to catch some rays, but lots of us choose not to. If it’s cold outside, snowing, or you flat out do not want to go outside, try getting a lightbox. A lightbox is a special light that simulates sunlight that is missing during the darkness of the winter months. The light that the light produces reduces the amount of melatonin that your brain releases and increases serotonin levels. In turn, this helps improve your mood and can help with depression.
  3. Stay social.
    With COVID restrictions, socializing can be hard. Now that it’s winter and outdoor activities are limited, it’s even harder. As we all learned in 2020, Zoom makes socializing so much easier, but we know it just is not the same as socializing in person. Finding activities to do with friends safely is not easy to do in the winter during COVID times but not impossible. Go for a hike on one of the many trails in NJ if the weather is nice, go skiing at Campgaw Mountain, or try maple sugaring right here in NJ. 
  4. Talk to your doctor.
    You don’t have to go through this alone, so talking to your doctor about how you’re feeling is a great way to get the help you need. Be open and honest about how you are feeling. Your doctor will give you treatment plans and may recommend some lifestyle changes. Follow the treatment options your doctor gives you and any lifestyle change recommendations.

Let’s do this together!

If you are ready to take the plunge to start exercising and help yourself conquer SAD, Forward Motion Physical Therapy is here to help you get started. We are currently offering complimentary physical fitness exams and creating personalized exercise plans. When you are ready to get started exercising and moving again, please let us know because we would love to help you. We’ll assess your fitness level, tell you which exercises to start with, how to progress, and how to start exercising the right way so that you enjoy exercising. Exercise shouldn’t be painful so we’ll help you find the right exercise plan to help you with body pains that may be ailing you. Schedule your appointment today by calling (973) 987-3310 for our Pequannock office or (973) 400-3730 for our Clifton office. In the meantime, here are some exercises you can do at home without any equipment.

What exercises can you do?

  1. Yoga. Yoga is a fantastic way to exercise gently and get your blood flowing. It’ll probably seem too easy when you get started. You’ll quickly learn that some of the yoga poses aren’t as easy as they look! Try doing a crow pose if you’re up for a challenge. You’ll discover that there is more to yoga than just stretching! YouTube has countless yoga channels and is a fantastic way to try out yoga for free.
  2. Body strength exercises. Squats, planks, lunges, pushups, and ab exercises are all the classic body strength exercises that some of us love to hate, but all of these exercises can be done and customized in a way that works for you and your fitness level. There are also challenges like the 100 pushups in a month challenge to help you ease into these exercises and slowly build up your strength so you aren’t going into them full steam ahead. When you come in for your complimentary physical fitness exam, Forward Motion Physical Therapy will help create the perfect exercise plan that suits you and your needs.
  3. Dance! Dancing is a fun way to exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise. Your downstairs neighbors might not like it, but you dancing your little heart out is a great way to get healthy. Put on your favorite tunes and get dancing. 

We hope that these tips help you in some way and that you were able to gain some insight into the “winter blues.” Please give us a call to schedule your physical fitness exam at (973) 987-3310 for our Pequannock office or (973) 400-3730 for our Clifton office.

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