News Flash: Why Winter Workouts Feel Harder, and More Health News

Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we look at one reason why winter workouts might feel more grueling, why men might think about becoming a dad earlier, and ways to avoid seasonal affective disorder.

Programmed to hibernate?

Sure, darker, colder evenings make the couch look a lot more inviting after the recent time change. But there’s more than just our own laziness that makes winter workouts seem difficult.

A new study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology and reported by Yahoo discovered a correlation between higher vitamin D levels and increased cardiorespiratory fitness—or the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to muscles during a workout.

When sunlight, our main source of vitamin D, gets increasingly scarce during winter months and our levels of the vitamin go down along with our fitness capacity, according to the study of 1,995 people between the ages of 20 and 49.

So how can we keep our vitamin D and fitness levels up? The right kinds of food can help, including oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, along with red meat and eggs.

Ticktock, would-be dads

Women are well aware of their biological clock ticking if they want to be able to conceive a healthy baby. But men haven’t really gotten the big medical hurry-up.

However, a new study in Time that was published in BMJ says that men, too, may have reason to not take all the time in the world to have kids. Babies born to older fathers, the paper says, may be more prone to health problems such as preterm birth, low birth weight and breathing problems. And women who have babies with older men may have increased health risks, too, such as gestational diabetes.

This comes at a time when men, like women, are having babies later in life. The average age of fatherhood rose to 31.2 years old in 2016, from 27.4 years in 1972, and the percentage of fathers 40 and older rose to about 9 percent, a 2017 study found.

Researchers analyzed the more than 40 million live births in the U.S. between 2007 and 2016, looking at measures of infant health by age groups. The biggest associations with child and maternal health problems surfaced at age 45, with the older the dad equaling the higher the risk. Compared to dads aged 25 to 34, babies born to dads 45 or older tended to weigh less and had a 14 percent higher chance of premature birth. Babies born to men older than 55 tended to score lower on the Apgar test, which assesses heart rate, breathing and reflexes. And women with partners older than 45 were 28 percent more likely to develop gestational diabetes than with younger dads.

This joins past research that linked higher paternal age with mental and behavioral health issues such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder.

Fighting the winter blues

The winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder, can sneak up on you, says this post in GQ from Norman Rosenthal, M.D., who coined the term. Author of “Winter Blues” (The Guilford Press 2012), Rosenthal describes what that feels like and what to do about it.

First, know that SAD isn’t going to feel like major depression. You might feel low energy like you’re dragging around all day and your thinking isn’t as clear.

“You have a vague sense that you’re not at your best. You just aren’t 100 percent. Maybe you’re at 85 percent,” Rosenthal writes. “For those of us functioning at a very high level, a loss of 15 percent is very substantial.”

Rosenthal says you might drink a little bit more, scarf down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, or order pizza and Red Bull. All are quick fixes to make yourself feel better.

What’s more effective, he says, is cultivating positive habits that stave off the funk.

Photo credit: bernardbodo, Thinkstock