We’re through the looking glass, people. Chances are you’re still berating yourself for scarfing down too many Halloween treats, sad with the knowledge that we’re on the doorstep of two months of caloric Christmas cheer. But there’s something else that may wreck your waistline.
Simply put: winter’s coming. The great outdoors rolls up its welcome mat and many of us hibernate rather than brave the cold and snow to get physical activity. If you thought you were demoralized when it suddenly got dark at 5:30 on Sunday night after the time change, just wait until the dead of December… and January… and February and March.
Between the food and the frigidness, is it any wonder that many of us gain weight in the winter? The youth-oriented among us seem to be able to work off that extra weight fairly easily (more on this later) but, for the rest of us, it gets harder yet somehow flabbier with each passing year.
The couch emits a special siren call in the winter; it wouldn’t be a problem, however, if we didn’t spend so much time sitting during the rest of the year. Even if you’re the type to squeeze in an hour at the gym between sitting at your work desk and plopping down in front of the television or computer in the evening, you’re probably still too sedentary.
A new study by the Conference Board of Canada and ParticipAction likened the act of sitting to smoking, so adverse are its effects on one’s health. Insufficient physical activity can contribute to hypertension, diabetes and premature death, say the study’s authors.
A sitting-based lifestyle can hurt the economy as well, the study suggests. It’s a straightforward equation: if more people were proactively active, fewer reactive healthcare dollars would be spent on medication, treatments and surgeries. A healthier workforce also results in fewer absentee days and disability claims.
A coming report from the same researchers will detail how people can be less sedentary, but we already know what to do. Drive less, walk more. Sit less, stand more. Play with the kids instead of just supervising them. Being active feels especially important in the winter, when less sunlight and more comfort food leaves us sluggish and suspect to a vicious cycle of inactivity.
In an ideal world, more than the current 15 per cent of Canadians would suddenly commit to the minimum 150 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity recommended by the government for a healthy existence. If you’re not already getting regular activity, perhaps now — when the days are darkening and the New Year’s rushes at local gyms haven’t started — is the time to start. As ever, consult a doctor or personal trainer if you’re new to the fitness game. Or start slowly on your own; invest in a sturdy pair of winter boots, layer well, and take a much-needed walk.
Remember when you were younger and staying fit seemed so much easier? Turns out there’s truth to these memories. While we can’t stop getting older, we can slow the decline in physical fitness that often comes with the calendar. Researchers in Norway conducted long-term studies of the “fitness age” 55,000 of their countryfolk starting in the 1980s, and ending in a perusal of death records. Unsurprisingly, those who had a younger fitness age in comparison to their actual age lived longer — and better — says a New York Times story on the study. The study’s authors suggest that fitness age may better predict a person’s risk for early death than traditional risk factors like being overweight, having high blood pressure or — here it is again — being a smoker.
The test is available at www.worldfitnesslevel.org/#/. It is simple and quick to take. The outcome can be startling, sobering or smug-inducing. Regardless, hopefully the results will get you out of your seat — at least for a bit.
The coming holiday season is a boon for the tastebuds; unfortunately, these flavours are usually linked to too much fat and sugar. Here’s a side dish that’s big on flavour and nutritional value to help you feel more virtuous at this vice-filled time of year.
Grated Cauliflower and Peas
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. grated, peeled, ginger
1 Tbsp. each: coriander seeds, cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric
Salt to taste
1 small cauliflower, grated on large holes of box grater
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 cup frozen peas
In a large, non-stick skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Add onion and ginger. Cook, stirring, for four minutes. Add coriander, cumin, turmeric and salt. Cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add cauliflower and tomato. Cook, stirring, until tender, 10-12 minutes. Stir in peas. Cook until tender. Makes 4-6 side servings.