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Muscles and Winter

In this article I would like to discuss the effect winter has on our muscles and what you can do about it.

Muscles and Winter

It is natural for us to succumb to some degree of hibernation during the winter months. After all, it is cold, wet and windy outside and who wouldn’t rather be curled up in front of a warm fire reading a good book. We tend to be less active when the shorter daylight hours and longer nights close in on us, and in some cases we can even get a case of the winter ‘blues’.

Inactivity can leave your muscles feeling tired, weak, stiff and sore and your joints start to ache more. Muscles conserve heat when it is cold by contracting, which can constrict blood flow, thus delivering less oxygen and less nutrients to our muscles. Lack of movement also results in a reduction in our lymph flow, possibly leaving us more susceptible to colds and other viruses. The lymph system is, in part, responsible for moving white blood cells around the body that help to fight against disease.

The solution to these winter blues is to be as active as possible both indoors and outside, weather permitting! Exercise helps to warm the muscle tissue, lengthens muscles, improves blood flow and improves lymph flow. Joints become less stiff. Exercise also produces feel-good hormones which improves your mental wellness.

If you do manage to get outside for some exercise be aware that your muscles will take longer to warm up and it could also be harder to keep them warm. You might be more susceptible to injury if you exercise with stiff and cold muscles, so take the extra time to warm-up adequately for your specific type of exercise. Make sure that you stay well hydrated too, even though you might not feel thirsty when it is cold.

Massage should be considered as part of your winter routine. Massage warms up muscles and tendons, helps loosen tight muscles, relieves soreness and gets muscles ready for exercise. It increases blood circulation and assists the lymphatic system. Serotonin and dopamine, the feel good hormones, are released during massage so we even feel better! And, if you need any further reason to get a massage, we can even apply oil to your winter-dried-out skin!

I hope that you can manage to keep those winter blues at bay.

Take care.

Rob Stephens (Remedial Massage Therapist - SA Remedial Therapy Clinic)

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