Walking in a Winter Wonderland


Winter is officially here as the Ruidoso area has been through two large storms this season with more predicted to follow. I’m excited! Winter brings new opportunities for exercise to include ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and my personal favorite: downhill skiing. Many of you know that I am the medical director of Ski Apache Ski Patrol and have been a pro patroller since the 2004-2005 ski season. This year’s snow may yet rival that banner year if predictions hold out.

Winter also bring new challenges for exercise. It is more difficult to plan a daily walk and workout routines often must be adjusted. Join the RAC or get a treadmill! Gym membership is frequently less expensive than purchasing all the equipment that you should be using at the gym. A home gym is another alternative for those that find it more difficult to get out. But, beware of the home gym option! The home gym has been known to succor many suckers into thinking that getting into shape will be much easier away from others. Anessa Collins, ACE certified personal trainer has been known to pull people out of bed to ensure that they get on the ball with their workout routine. If you home workout routine has stagnated, look up Anessa!

Those that have a regular walking or outdoor exercise routines would do well to pay extra attention on our snowy or icy days. I’ll admit that I don’t think there are many things more invigorating than taking a breather after a hard workout in below freezing temperatures. That said, please take precautions to avoid a trip… to the ER. Icy roads, snowy sidewalks, and frozen ground can bring winter activities to a halt. Stay safe and warm this winter!

Winter blues? Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, the shorter days have a tendency to increase the risk for depression. This risk is greater in those individuals that also have symptoms of hypothyroidism. While exercise doesn’t have a significant effect on low thyroid; it has been proven to do wonders in reversing the winter blues. For the couch potatoes- the studies use an increased heart rate and respiratory rate (think heavy breathing or blowing like you are trying to catch your breath) to define exercise.

Santa doesn’t get off the hook either! A recent meta-analysis looking at more than 60,000 patients was published in the December 2013 Annals of Internal Medicine. “Metabolically healthy” obese patients had a 24% increased risk for cardiac events or death compared to metabolically health patients of normal weight. Overweight patients didn’t fare much better at 21% increased risk. So much for the “jolly old fat man”! I imagine that he will start hitting the gym this January after reading these statistics. I’ve heard that health care around the North Pole is rather limited even if you have managed to sign up for it.

Finally- what about those winter days that are so cold and icy that it isn’t safe to venture outside? I’ve got the perfect exercise routine for you! If you haven’t read the previous Ageless Medicine column entitled The Big “O” (and I don’t mean Ohio), find it on the Ruidoso Free Press website. The physical and psychological benefits of sex have been well documented and it might be safer to stay home and get your heart rate up under the covers on some of our snowier winter days. Please re-reference two paragraphs above for a good definition of exercise. If you aren’t blowing when you’re going at it you probably need to adjust your routine.

Merry Christmas!

Disclaimer: Dr Stephen Rath, MD, DABA is a board certified anesthesiologist, Air Force flight surgeon, FAA AME, paramedic, and pilot as well as the owner and medical director of Fusion Medical Spa located in Ruidoso, NM. He continually quarrels with his wife on the appropriateness of being able to see his breath in the bedroom, especially in the winter months. Comments or questions? His email address is: