Bitter cold creating couch potatoes

Complaining that it’s too cold to go outside but you’re in summer attire. Nathaniel Yeo via Unsplash

It’s always so much easier to sit stagnant during the cold winter months

I have lived in the Canadian prairies for around five years now. Every year in the spring and summer, I wonder why more people do not move here and take in the breathtakingly beautiful prairies. Every year in late fall, I remember why.

The bitter cold we experience is more than just an inconvenience. As an international student, I often have conversations with people back home who are thinking of coming to Canada. One topic that always comes up is how people get around and function during the at least couple of weeks when we get to –40 C, a snowstorm, or some combination of those. I try telling them you get used to it, and unless things are spectacularly bad, we go about our daily lives, with a few more layers than those in warmer climates. I can certainly attest that for myself, whether it is getting to class, work, or a grocery trip, the only reason I look at the weather is to pick out which jacket, gloves, and toque combination to go with.

Barring exceedingly inclement weather, it certainly never occurs to me to put off work or the business of life simply because it is cold. After all, if I did that, I would have to hit the pause button on life for anywhere between three to six months every year. However, the above only applies to the things that act on me and demand my reaction. I do have to get to a lecture, I do have to get to work, and if I want to make some soup to tide me over the dark long nights of winter, I do need to get groceries.

The story is markedly different, though, when it comes to those things in life that call for a more proactive attitude, like going for a walk or just stepping outside to get some natural light, something I do not get a lot of in my basement suite. I would like to think that I am not a complete couch potato. In the summer months, I go for a walk around Wascana nearly every day. Sometimes this is on top of the long walks I take around my own neighborhood in the evenings, basking in the long late afternoon sun. One look at my activity tracker charts from back then confirms that there are days when I log in around ten kilometres of walking without even trying. It certainly helps that, when stuck with a problem in my dissertation, taking a walk almost always seems to untangle the strands of thought in my head. Sometimes, I do cheat and count those hours of walking as time spent working on my research!

The same activity tracker, however, tells a very different story once winter is well and truly upon us. Some days I do not even put it on, opting not to be given visible evidence of how the only steps I have taken are to and from the kitchen. An oft-repeated joke between me and a friend is that during the winter months, our shoes probably think we are no longer bound to this earthly realm.

The biggest culprit, I would say, is the brutal weather. A walk outdoors, or taking in some sunlight, feels markedly more like a chore when it involves putting on layers, gloves, toques, and what not. To be perfectly honest, I even put off taking out the trash because I will have to get decent shoes and a jacket on, opting to either ask a housemate who is headed outside anyway or wait until I must head out for other errands.

However, I have been trying to do better for the last couple of months. One thing that has helped is audiobooks. I am someone who needs constant stimuli – is that good or bad? I prefer not to delve deeper. In the winter months, this has often taken the form of letting the television blare on while I curl in under the blankets. However, I have recently begun to leverage my love of books. So, I will play an audiobook, giving myself maybe half hour or forty-five minutes to listen, but only if I am on my feet, moving my body around, making sure to get some exercise. It is not the greatest, but it is an improvement over the status quo. Yes, it is not as pleasant as being outdoors in the summer months, but I personally much prefer it over being outdoors in the winters. I also want to clarify I personally feel no external pressure to look or act a certain way and that has little to do with my trying to be active. Over the last few years, I have just realized I feel better and do my best when I take the time to work out. So, this will do for now and I will always have my long summer walks around Wascana.


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