Several readers have winter-related health questions for Dr. Jennifer Closshey.
Readers dealing with winter in Florida recently asked me some specific questions about the season, which I’ll answer this week.
Dry, itchy skin
Rachel wrote in: “My skin is so dry and itchy this winter. It is especially uncomfortable when I come home from the gym. Why, and what can I do?”
Winter-dry skin can be so miserable that you just want to take a vacation to escape it. In Florida, we are about as south as you can get, so let’s look to other options. Flaking, dry skin is very common when the weather cools. The cooler air is usually drier than in our warmer and more humid Florida summer. This dry air immediately affects the skin.
On top of the low humidity usually associated with winter, experts recommend more frequent hand-washing to avoid cold germs and flu bugs typically present in the winter. Washing more frequently dries our skin. Being outside in cool weather, we tend to forget the sunscreen making a cold weather sunburn or wind burn, more skin-drying circumstances, more common. Cooler weather means the blood vessels actually withdraw from the skin surface, meaning less blood supply to the skin itself. Less blood means less immediate healing and drier skin.
Help yourself by exfoliating. Clearing away dead skin cells promotes new skin growth. Additionally, the clearer the skin, the better chance moisturizer will penetrate. Use commercial products to exfoliate or try apple cider vinegar applied once a day at full strength. Use it on hands, arms, legs or even the face. Apply and rinse off after five minutes.
Going home from the gym? Be careful not to step out into the cool air with sweaty body parts exposed. Shower at home and immediately apply moisturizer before patting your skin dry. Remember to use warm water only. No long, hot baths or showers, as hot water removes natural body oils and further dries our skin.
Sleep or exercise?
Ray asked: “Which is better: more sleep or more exercise?”
There is no such thing as a bad question. But this is like asking, “Which is better — food or water?” The answer is, the body needs both food and water. The body also needs both sleep and exercise.
Short tempers, brain fog and fatigue set in with a lack of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation results in obesity, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Regular moderate exercise reduces stress and the negative body chemistry that leads to obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and it also reduces blood pressure. A good night’s sleep coupled with consistent exercise is a winning combination. Catch up on your sleep first and then work out regularly.
Back off and get a massage
Jane asked: “I get so sore from working out. What can I do to help get over this miserable feeling?”
First, pace workouts more evenly. The goal is to feel a “good” kind of sore the day following exercise. If the discomfort does not start until the second day or is too intense, lower the repetitions and/or weight used. Build up to a more comfortable level of muscle recovery.
A monthly massage is not a luxury, but an added boost to your workout program. Massages ease sore muscles and aching joints, reduce blood pressure and stress while enhancing the immune system.
Licensed by the state as a touch therapy, professional massage not only relaxes but provides many therapeutic benefits for conditions such as muscle strains, osteoarthritis and back aches. Massage has been proven to increase blood circulation and boost levels of endorphins, the feel-good hormone.
Jennifer Closshey is a doctor of integrative health and a Plant City YMCA yoga instructor. JenniferClosshey@gmail.com.