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My New Year's Resolution this year is get active. Where do I begin, and how can I manage to stay active during our harsh winter?

Answer from Express Scripts Canada Pharmacist, Haroona Farhan:

Hi I'm Haroona Farhan, your Express Scripts Canada Pharmacist. Welcome to Ask the Pharmacist. Our patient Ryan sent in this question:


My New Year's Resolution this year is get active. Where do I begin, and how can I manage to stay active during our harsh winter?



Congratulations, this is probably the best resolution you can make for yourself. Committing to an active lifestyle all year round is an important part of staying healthy. Still, we all know the feeling of waking up, looking out on a frosty day outside, and feeling like you might just want to stay in your pyjamas and drink hot chocolate. Believe me – I've been there too!

The first thing you need to do is get yourself up and out of the house to make the most of the few daylight hours available to you in winter. Why not participate in a winter activity that you have always wanted to try – like cross country skiing or snowshoeing. And for the young at heart, just making a snowman or having a playful snowball fight is a great way to get the body moving. The point is to learn to take on the winter by getting out there and embracing it.

But if you’re going to embrace the winter, make sure you’re dressed for it!

  • Dress in layers to make it easier to adjust to the temperature.
    • The inner layer should be a material that draws moisture off your body, so avoid cotton.
    • The outer layer should be something windproof and waterproof.
    • In between wear fluffy fabrics that trap the heat, like fleece.
    • Be sure to cover any exposed skin with gloves, scarves and hats.
  • When you come back inside, peel off the layers gradually, over a period of 15 to 20 minutes, as losing heat too quickly can actually lead to post-exercise hypothermia.

If you don’t feel confident enough on the ice and snow outside, get yourself out of the house by taking part in an increasingly popular winter activity – mall walking. Not only does it keep you moving, it has the added social element that helps keep you mentally fit as well. This is especially important for seniors.

There are many groups out there that get together regularly for such walks, as well as groups for running and other outdoor activities. Joining a group can be a great motivator in many ways.

Another thing you need to remember about our winters is that because we get so little sunlight, many Canadians suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and a healthy immune system, and not getting enough can affect your mood and your cognitive functions. If you find yourself sluggish in the winter, talk to your pharmacist about whether you may need a vitamin D supplement.

Finally, remember to stay hydrated. Though you may not feel as thirsty as you do in summertime, it's still important to drink plenty of water before, during and after any physical activity. Whatever activities you choose to do, the important thing is to get yourself into a routine as quickly as possible, so that exercise becomes a regular part of your week. If you set reasonable goals and gradually increase the amount of movement your body is getting, you will find yourself looking and feeling better – even in the harsh winter months! Until next time, this has been another episode of Ask the Pharmacist.

I wish you good health.

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