Health HOW TO LOVE WINTER If youre not a fan of the colder months, a few changes can help put the sparkle back into the season for you WORDS: Georgina Wintersgill W hen its cold and dark, its not always easy or tempting to get outside, especially if you have sore joints. Rheumatology occupational therapist Angela Jacklin says: A lot of people dread winter, and thats a shame, because it can bring with it lots of enjoyment. Read on for some suggestions on how to make the most of the season. Keeping active is essential for a healthy lifestyle and has many benefits for arthritis 1 Stay warm As the weather gets colder, its important to wrap up. Jacklin recommends dressing in layers. Try a long-sleeved T-shirt, cardigan and a fleece, she says. Then take off a layer as you get warmer. Gloves are a must, perhaps with mittens on top. By warming up your hands, they can help to ease pain. Jacklin recommends layering bedding, too. If a heavier duvet is painful on your joints, try a lighter one with a throw on top. Consider a heated under-or overblanket. Getting into a warm bed at night can ease your joints, and you can turn it on for a few minutes before getting up in the morning. You could also try a hotwater bottle, but dont use it with an electric blanket. If youre aged 65 or over, not very mobile, or have a health condition, such as lung or heart disease, the NHS recommends heating your home to at least 18C. In rooms where you sit a lot and dont move around, youll feel the cold more, says Jacklin. Keep a hot drink to hand and a throw for your legs. Physiotherapist Jack March, rheumatology clinical lead at Chews Health, adds: Many people find warmth loosens the joints, and some report a reduction in pain. Heat brings blood to the area, which can make the surroundings of the joint more comfortable. He suggests hand warmers, and washing hands in warm water. 2 Keep moving 3 Eat right 4 Get out in nature A 2011 American study found older people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis were sedentary for three more hours a day in the months with fewer daylight hours. But keeping active is essential for a healthy lifestyle and has many benefits for arthritis: strengthening muscles, improving joint flexibility and function, and reducing pain. It can also improve energy levels and mood. Jacklin says: Swimming in warm water is good some pools offer warm-water sessions. Gentle movement such as tai chi or yoga can help, or even some gentle leg and arm stretches from your chair. Walking is also beneficial and its free! The Versus Arthritis website has lots of suggestions for exercises you can do from home, and the Lets Move programme can help you find more movement in your life. It may be tempting to warm up with generous helpings of stodgy comfort food, but its important to eat healthily and watch your weight. A 2018 American study of overweight or obese people with knee osteoarthritis found the more weight they lost, the more their pain was reduced, and they saw improvement in their function, mobility and quality of life. Choose healthy options that will warm you up without piling on the pounds, such as porridge, soups, and stews with pulses and vegetables. Meals can be made in batches for another day, or using a slow cooker. Finally, dont forget vitamin D its essential for bone health and may have antiinflammatory effects. Our bodies cant make enough in autumn and winter, so the Department of Health recommends a daily supplement of 10mcg. Many of us stay indoors more in winter, but there are plenty of reasons to get outside. A 2014 study on the Walking for Health scheme in England found free group walks are linked with lower levels of depression and stress, and improved mental health and wellbeing. Jacklin says: Try to get out at least once a day, even if its just to the end of your path. Its good for mind and body. Try to see the best in winter: its with us for a good few months, so embrace the change! Choose healthy options that will warm you up without piling on the pounds, such as porridge