Even with an occasional 60-degree day, February isn’t exactly my favorite month for getting active (or doing anything really, except maybe watching college basketball and catching up on TV shows). I prefer to spend my winter under a warm blanket with a giant sweatshirt and my bunny slippers, remote in hand, butt on couch.
As someone who thinks the first snow of the season is magical and who saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens (chock-full of hope from crawl to credits) three times this winter, I know if I’m running a little low on hope and motivation, lots of others probably are, too. After the holiday goodies go stale, I’m kind of done with winter. The mere thought of being outside in the cold makes me cringe. (Once again, thank goodness for those rare warm February days.)
Despite the snow, ice, and occasional subzero wind chills (gross), you don’t have to hibernate for the whole season. A little rest mixed with a hobby here and there is a great recipe for a productive and satisfying winter, even if you’re like me and think stepping outside in the cold is pure torture.
In fact, relaxation is healthy, too. It not only helps refresh your mind, but it also helps lower your risk for certain diseases. Relaxation doesn’t mean lying in bed all day doing nothing. You can take some time to do something you love, catch up with a friend or family member on the phone (or in person if you’re ready to brave the cold), or try a new, relaxing hobby.
Winter is a gift-wrapped, guilt-free excuse handed to us each year (at least in the northern half of the United States), allowing us to put off our outdoor activities for about three months.
I need to cherish that gift, and here’s a short list of how I plan to do so with a mixture of stimulating and relaxing hobbies. You can customize the list and make the most of winter, too.
Nicole’s Ultimate Relaxation & At-Home Projects List
Make my dream a reality.
Although writing is literally my job, after years of writing about real-life events and health facts, I want to try my hand at fiction. I’ve dreamed of writing a novel since grade school, and it’s at the top of my bucket list (or sunshine list, as my friend aptly named it).
The verdict is still out on whether I’m any good, but this item is mostly about achieving a personal goal. Plus, writing is the perfect indoor activity for me (I can wear my bunny slippers AND make my dream come true).
Complete a major organization project.
Although it’s not quite as empowering as writing an entire novel, I would love to someday have every photo I’ve ever taken, or at least the good ones, organized both digitally and in print. (Not having printed photos makes me uneasy every time I watch a post-apocalyptic TV show or movie). Like my book, this one will take more than a season, but it’s another activity I can do inside.
I’m staying away from scrapbooking, though. I learned firsthand while creating a (very thorough) scrapbook of my senior year of high school that my perfectionism and scrapbooking don’t mix well when stress relief is my goal.
Take something old and make it new.
I spent a large chunk of last winter painting Mason jars to use as brightly colored vases in my apartment. I also started saving and painting olive, pickle, and pepper jars in the process, and suddenly, I had a winter hobby. I love olives, pickles, and peppers almost as much as candy, so my collection grew pretty quickly.
They were easy to paint (there are different techniques with varying degrees of difficulty) and reminded me of spring.
There are plenty of physical activities you can do without getting out in the nasty weather. Last winter, I started a step challenge. I got a LOT of steps, about 10,000 per day, sometimes closer to 20,000, mostly by walking around my apartment during commercial breaks, sporting events, and phone conversations. (Sorry, downstairs neighbors.)
I sometimes also do pushups, squats, crunches, and various other exercises while watching TV, and my all-time favorite exercise, dancing, is living room-friendly as well. Basically, as long as dancing and/or being able to watch TV is on the table, I’m a fan of exercise.
Channel my inner kid.
I’m somewhat of an expert at this one. For instance, I ate SpaghettiOs while writing this blog post.
Anyway, adult coloring books are a thing now. My co-workers and I have started having coloring nights after work. I use a kid coloring book, though. To me, the adult ones look too tough to be fun, and I’m a bigger fan of Disney characters than abstract designs anyway.
Spring sprang in my apartment about a week ago because, like I’ve mentioned again and again, I’m tired of the cold. Decorating helps me cut back on boredom and allows for some creativity. Once it’s done, it’s a daily reminder that spring isn’t too far away. I highly recommend this one.
Enjoy those rare warm days.
If it’s going to be 60 degrees outside (or even upper 50s), I intend to get out and enjoy the spring-like temperature. As much as my relaxation and indoor projects list motivates me, nothing is quite as motivating as being able to go outside on a sunny day in a spring jacket.
Disclaimer: While the items on this list can help you fight boredom, escape from stress, feel accomplished, and stimulate your mind, they’re not magic. Winter will still be winter.
When the relaxation and indoor hobbies aren’t masking the winter grind, just remember, jelly bean season is in full swing, and pitchers and catchers reported this week. Spring will come.
Many years ago, I really looked forward to our high school homecoming. Looking back, we were involved in a number of hazardous activities, but at the time, they were the norm.
We pressed in around an enormous bonfire with little or no supervision. We rode on the back deck of a convertible, and sometimes the driver would tap on the gas just to give us a thrill. We consumed enormous quantities of high-fat, high-sodium foods – no wait, we did that all year. And to top it off, most of these activities were at school, which could have been full of asbestos. Our hard-charging football team was known for its defensive rushing, and the crack of the helmets could be heard above the roar of the crowd.
Traumatic brain injuries can be caused by injuries from all kinds of sports, especially the high-impact ones, like soccer, boxing, football, baseball, lacrosse, skateboarding, and hockey, particularly in youth.
Cognitive symptoms can include:
Memory or concentration problems
Mood changes or mood swings
Feeling depressed or anxious
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“The long-term impact of all types of traumatic brain injuries is an area that is receiving a lot more attention and research,” Dr. Jim Burke, a senior medical director at Health Alliance, told me. “The key focus now should be on prevention and treatment options for current patients with this diagnosis.”
Bob Slesinski works in Purchasing at Carle Foundation Hospital. One of his passions for the last 20 years has been coaching high school basketball teams.
“Attitudes have changed since we were playing basketball in high school,” he said. “With prevailing research, we are much more attuned to the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries, and it seems proceeding with caution will be the best course.”
“Carle Foundation offers a seminar for area coaches that helps us be more aware of methods to avoid traumatic brain injuries and gives us useful tips on what to do when we suspect there has been a concussion during a game or practice.”
As usual, the more you learn, the more you know. It was once common not to wear seatbelts, too. It’s hard to believe that was the norm at one time.
Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.]
I’ve changed my diet, organized my life, and made healthier choices, so the last and biggest thing on the list is exercise.
I don’t like to exercise, as I think a lot of us don’t. I’m competitive, so I liked playing sports as a kid, but as an adult, exercising by myself is boring and hard work. If I had a gym membership and could read on a treadmill, it might be different. But as it is, it’s hard to make myself do it.
But if I can (for the most part) give up candy, completely abandon soda, and stop drinking coffee for a month, I can handle anything!
I started by doing a muscle-strengthening yoga routine every day, which was a great way to start for me. It wasn’t too intense, it was calming, and it really helped me regain some flexibility and balance I’d lost over the years.
Now, I’ve been doing P90X. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it used to have infomercials on TV, which automatically makes me suspicious. But I actually know a number of people who have done it, and my goal is less to get a killer six-pack and more to get in better shape, so I don’t really need it to live up to all its TV promises.
I borrowed the DVDs from a friend, so I didn’t spend all of the money they’re talking about. I’m also not following all of their meal plans or the exact exercise plan. Each day you’re supposed to do a different workout for a different part of your body, and they’re each about an hour and a half long with warmups and cool downs.
I usually can’t make it through the whole thing yet; they’re really difficult! I also do them more like every other day because I’m so sore the day after. They make you pour sweat, and they make you want to lie on the ground in your own sweat puddle to catch your breath.
But I can already see some improvements! And that’s really satisfying. Am I out running yet? No (it’s been so rainy!). But I am getting cardio and strengthening done, in my own bedroom no less.
Plus, I’ve found some new interests by doing them. For instance, there’s a kickboxing workout that I love, so maybe in the future, I might try kickboxing classes!
Do I think I’ll stick with this level of workout forever? Definitely no! Eventually, I’d like to mix things like this up with other activities, like yoga, runs, and more simple workouts. Once it’s a habit, it will really be more about doing something every day.
It’s all about finding the things that will keep you interested, engaged, and MOVING.
There are so many reasons (and studies on) why you should exercise. Mayo Clinic breaks it down perfectly: Exercise controls weight, fights health conditions and diseases, improves your mood, boosts your energy, and helps you sleep.
And Rally, our wellness tool, knows how important it is, too. It has tons of great missions to get you moving, like exercise 30 minutes every day, work up a sweat 3x a week, swim 30 minutes, and work your core, as well as weightlifting and walking missions.
So to help you get on a great fitness track that will entertain you and doesn’t require an expensive package, I’ve rounded up some activities for you to try for some of these missions.
Your kids probably just kicked off summer vacation, but between the trips to the pool, family vacations, and summer sporting events, there are a few things you should add to your to-do list to get your kids ready for next school year. This back-to-school health checklist can help!
Many schools won’t allow any students to come to school without their immunization record. Immunizations, or shots, help expose your kids to a tiny dose of a disease so that their bodies will already know how to fight off a bigger dose if they come in contact with it again.
These shots protect them from all kinds of diseases, from measles to cervical cancer. And they’re safe!
Kids get different shots at different times, so these handy charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help you figure out what they need this year:
Expressing that they have trouble seeing can also be difficult for young children, and it can be just as hard for parents to realize their kids are having trouble seeing.
Seeing well is key to learning to read and write and doing well in school. So there’s no better time than back-to-school season to get your kids a vision checkup to see if they need glasses or an updated prescription.
Talk to the School
One of the most important parts of this time of year is talking to your kids’ school. Making sure the school has up-to-date information could save your child’s life.
Is the emergency contact information correct for your family? Can the school reach you or your family if something happens?
Does the school have a full list of all the medications your child takes? Even if he or she doesn’t take them at school, it is important the school knows what your child is on in case of an emergency.
Does the school know of all the health problems it might have to deal with? For example, does the school know what your child is allergic to, like peanuts or bee stings?
Does your child have any physical restriction, like asthma or a heart condition? Are there sorts of activities he or she should avoid?
Little Things That Make a Big Difference
Before school starts again, there are also some little things you can help your kids do to feel good and succeed in school.
Help them get enough sleep. A sleep schedule can help your kids get into a routine and stay alert all day long. Growing kids need at least 8 hours a night, and teens need even more.
Make sure they have a healthy breakfast for all-day energy.
Help them know their healthy options. Vending machines are always tempting. But you can help them know what choices are healthy and will keep them going all day and how to limit things like chips and candy.
Encourage exercise. Whether it’s P.E., playing a sport, or riding their bike to school, just one hour of activity a day can help kids feel less stressed, stay healthy, sleep better, build their self-esteem, and grow healthy muscles, bones, and joints.
Talk to your kids’ pediatrician if you have more questions about their health this summer.
Annual checkups with your doctor are perfect at this time of year. Kids can get their shots, a routine checkup, and a sports physical all at once if they need it!
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), in 2012, 29.1 million people had diabetes, and 8.1 million of them didn’t even know they had it. Managing you and your family’s diabetes can be a challenge.
Sometimes, you don’t realize the reach the disease can have on your health and your lives.
Your diabetes can affect your feet, eyes, and mouth. These guides tell you how diabetes affects them, and ways to prevent problems.
Controlling your blood sugar through an insulin-based treatment plan can be tricky, but these tips can help.
Your blood sugar can also swing for reasons other than what you eat, so awareness is key.
When you’re first diagnosed, insulin injections can be a scary part of dealing with your diabetes. This guide can help walk you through the process.
You can also check out the YouTube video playlist Diabetes Basics from the ADA to learn more about how diabetes works and ways to protect yourself.
Your Family’s Diabetes
Of the 9.3% of the U.S. population who has diabetes, about 208,000 people are under age 20. And when you’re still growing up, the age difference can change the affects, both physically and emotionally.
The ADA also has a page, Everyday Life, that helps you find resources to help your kids live with diabetes through all the stages and events of life. Topics include leaving them with babysitters, telling others, playing sports, and even parties, dating, and driving.
Their YouTube channel also has a playlist of videos to help you make sure your kids are Safe at School.
I absolutely love watching sports and worked for my favorite college sports program for nearly five years (go Illini!), but I’m terrible at them. I’m clumsy, and I can’t catch a ball to save my life.
I probably had the lowest whiffle ball batting average in grade school history, striking out more than a time or two. I’m the kid who brought kickball cheerleading to fourth-grade recess to get out of actually having to play kickball, and I joined band in fifth grade because I knew it would eventually get me out of physical education in high school.
I don’t classify myself as athletic. Don’t get me wrong; I have a decent jump shot in basketball (thanks, Dad!) and can throw a pretty nice spiral on the football field, but my 5-foot frame doesn’t really lend itself to either of those sports.
For all my clumsiness (I’ve fallen down walking in a straight line on more than one occasion), I can usually hold my own on the dance floor. I was a dancer and cheerleader in middle school and high school, and dancing is still my favorite way to work out. When it comes to dancing, my body forgets that it’s clumsy.
To me, running and hiking seem like punishments, and playing almost any kind of sport sounds like an embarrassment waiting to happen. But dancing is different. I actually have fun doing it.
I’m trying to make healthy lifestyle choices in 2015, so I recently returned to Zumba class. I hadn’t been since last June, so I prepared by dancing around my living room for the week leading up to it (boom, exercising to be ready to exercise). I had to learn a lot of new routines during my class after being out nearly eight months, but it was worth it to get in some good cardio while doing something I actually enjoy.
For those of you who don’t know much about Zumba, it’s basically an hour-long (depending on where you go) dance party with an instructor to teach you moves that work your thighs, abs, arms, calves, heart, and more.
You don’t have to know much about dance, but it’s a good way to channel your inner hip-hop dancer or pretend you’re the Latin dance star you’ve always wanted to be (wait, that might just be a personal dream of mine). Health Alliance offers discounts to some gyms that teach Zumba classes. Check them out.
Even I, someone who is way more clutch writing from press row than standing at the free-throw line and who will do almost anything to get out of playing a sport or running on a treadmill, have found my exercising niche. If I can, I’m sure you can, too.
I’m living proof you don’t have to hit home runs (or even make contact at the plate in whiffle ball) to find a way to get in shape.