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Beating the winter blues by staying active, getting sun

Colder temperatures can cause some to develop the "winter blues," but health experts say staying active and getting as much sunlight as possible is one way to fight back.According to the website for Academy of American Family Physicians, approxim...

Portrait of young man suffering for depression
Portrait of young man suffering for depression
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Colder temperatures can cause some to develop the "winter blues," but health experts say staying active and getting as much sunlight as possible is one way to fight back.

According to the website for Academy of American Family Physicians, approximately 4 to 6 percent of people suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Also known as seasonal depression, SAD is characterized by the onset of depression during winter months when there is a less natural sunlight, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.

Shad Brophy, a physician assistant for CHI St. Alexius Health Clinic in Dickinson and Beach, said one of the ways to combat the "winter blues" is to stay active and get sunlight whenever possible. He said that sometimes, if a situation is severe, they may have patients talk to a psychiatrist who can prescribe light therapy to help boost melatonin levels. Taking natural supplements, including melatonin, can also help.

"Take advantage of being outside, get the sunlight," Brophy said. "Even if it's cloudy you can still benefit from being outside."

Brophy said if it is too cold outdoors, it's best to continue to stay active or do other things to keep your mind off of the cold weather.


"Basically it's just staying healthy, trying to get your sleep and just staying active as much as possible," he said.

SAD is more prevalent in young women between 18 and into their early thirties, Brophy said. People who have also gone through depression in the past are also more susceptible to suffer from seasonal depression.

Michelle Orton, a personal trainer at West River Community Center, said while she's not an expert in the field of mental health, one thing she stresses with her clients are the benefits daily exercise can do to help with stress and depression.

She said that working out relieves some stress and that just doing a workout and sweating can help people from feeling "so blah" during the winter months.

"When you can get yourself out there it just changes your mindset," Orton said. "I think that alone, when you can sweat it out, even if it's 30 minutes, you're releasing so much. That way your energy levels can increase, and I think when your energy levels can increase that can help combat a lot of those medical concerns or issues."

She said her clients who suffer from seasonal depression have told her that simply working out during the week seems to make a difference for them.

"It doesn't have to be an extremely intense workout," she said. "It's just that 30 minutes of getting some type of movement, sweat and being with others that can boost your energy levels, your confidence. It doesn't solve the issue or concerns, it's just a way to continue with your day and help you look in a positive aspect."

Tanning salons also see an increase in traffic during the winter months as people try and find a way to stay warm and get a little bit of rays.
"As soon as that sun goes away we do definitely (see an increase)," said Ashley Baseflug with Aloha Tan. "It's our busy season for sure. People want that little bit of sunlight that they can get."


She said while they do not claim that tanning is a safe way to get Vitamin D, they do monitor the amount of time that someone is in the bed and the amount of days people tan in order to keep them safe.

Aloha Tan also has a red light therapy bed, which claims to reduce inflammation, relieve joint pain, eliminate stretch marks and treats acne, among other things. Baseflug said while it is strictly for therapy, it does warm up like a tanning bed so some people come into their store simply to feel that warmth.

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