Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Baby, It's Cold Outside

As the temperatures are set to dip into single digits, it seems timely to address how the cold affects MS.  I think it is widely understood that heat triggers a number of MS symptoms.  What those of us who have lived through some cold winters know, cold is NO friend either.

Typically, I function best when the ambient temperature ranges from 60-72 degrees F.  Outside that (tiny) range, there is trouble - with vision, gait, balance.  It goes without saying that those "perfect" days are few and far between.  So, how is a person with MS supposed to get out and exercise when facing these limitations?

Some cold-weather thoughts:

  • Outside activity is not always possible - BUT it is almost always possible.  I find that if I get outside to exercise I am amazed at how positive an experience it becomes.  
  • Layers are your friend.  Wear more layers than even those who are with you,  The trick is to then be flexible enough with your activity to stop and take off layers as your body temperature increases.  Crazy as it sounds, I am known for strewing layers as I go - hanging them on stop signs, tree limbs.  I have lost a few pieces along the way, but usually as I circle back they are waiting for me.  Layer up!
  • That said, expose as much skin as is prudent.  Today it's too cold, but in cold (but not frigid) weather, I try to expose a bit of skin to the sun for short periods of time.  The Vitamin D is awesome and may have a protective effect with MS progression.
  • Don't slip!  If your balance or gait is compromised, venturing out in icy conditions is not advisable.  Snow itself is not generally slippery and makes a fantastic running or walking surface!  Trudge through that snow!
  • Invest in a good pair of boots with real traction.  I also have Gortex running shoes with substantial bottoms that are great for walking or running in smaller amounts of snow.
  • Warm up before you go outside.  To whatever extent you are mobile, walk on the treadmill, hike the stairs, stand up/sit down for several minutes before you head out.  
  • Carry your phone!
  • Upon arrival back inside, get the cold or wet clothes off your body.  Bundle up in your cozies and drink water followed by something that warms you up and makes you feel toasty. 

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