Struggling with winter workouts?

If you are struggling with motivation and workouts this winter, know you are not alone.  Roughly 20% of Americans are affected by SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a type of depression that occurs the same time of the year, every year.  It typically starts in the fall and increases as the winter goes on. 
According to the Mayo Clinic

SAD symptoms include:

  • decreased energy
  • moody spells
  • anxiety
  • extremities can feel heavy
  • decrease in social life
  • weight gain
  • craving high carbohydrate foods or other appetite changes
  • difficulty concentrating 
  • poor sleeping patterns
  • even put you into a state of depression

*Make sure if you ever get to the point of hopelessness, turning to alcohol to control your days or depression that you consult with your doctor.

So what causes SAD?
A true medical cause is unknown.  The likely cause is similar to other mental health issues which are genetics, age and chemical make up.  Certain medications, drug/alcohol abuse, low vitamin D levels, poor sleep habits, poor nutrition and nutritional inefficiencies are other common causes.  Serotonin and melatonin are both hormones that can contribute to SAD. If your serotonin is low which can because by lack of sunlight depression can be triggered.  If your melatonin is low your sleep patterns and mood will be affected.

Females are more at risk for SAD.  Those with family history and other types of depression are also more at risk.  Lastly, if you live further from the equator (like Minnesota) you can also be at more risk.

There is no specific test for SAD.  A doctor will ask you questions, might perform a physical exam and could order blood work to rule out other issues.  Commonly Vitamin D levels will be low and they will recommend Vitamin D therapy.  Here is another post on vitamin D supplementation.

For your doctor to diagnose you with SAD you will have had to have symptoms for at least two consecutive years.  
Also, experience episodes of depression followed by non depression and to have mood/behavior swings for no reason.

Some things you can do to reduce your SAD:

  • Light Therapy (talk with your doctor if you are already on an antidepressant) 
  • Vitamin D Supplementation
  • Melatonin Supplementation
  • Magnesium Supplementation
  • Omega 3/Fish oil supplements
  • Stay socially active in the winter time, here are some activities to try to keep you busy
  • Keep working out, even when energy is low (the Mayo clinic even says so)
  • Try to do some activities out side, even if its cold to get some natural Vitamin D, but read our winter safety tips first
  • Keep blinds open at home to let some sun light in
  • Yoga, meditation and massage have also been shown to help
  • Take care of yourself and practice stress management
  • Take a vacation to somewhere warm and sunny
  • If your SAD is really bad discussing psychotherapy and medications with your doctor is also advised
Good luck the rest of this winter, its almost over, hopefully!