Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post

Mark Gottschlich

Everyday Wellness: Winter’s negative health effects often overlooked

Winter is almost upon us. Though there are a select few individuals who genuinely look forward to the change in season, the sane majority (myself included) are not particularly fond of winter’s presence, which will surely include many dark and frigid days. It’s not that I’m a total winter hater — I enjoy a snowy day filled with snowballs and sledding just as much as the next guy, especially if it involves school closure — but a couple weeks of winter would satisfy my craving. Okay, enough of my winter venting.

The point is, winter can take a toll on us both physically and psychologically, and many people don’t realize the consequences that stress has on our ability to fight infection. For example, running, walking and biking enthusiasts who are accustomed to adhering to a favorite outdoor workout routine are forced to take their exercises inside to stationary equipment because of the cold temperature and piercing wind. Though perhaps less enjoyable, some will be diligent in continuing to exercise while others lose interest. But in either case, winter is associated with change in habitual routines. Though winter may lead to some positive changes as well (such as going to sleep at a more reasonable hour), winter’s negative effects on health and well-being are often overlooked and underappreciated.

From my clinical experience as a medical student, two things are apparent during the winter months: more people experience flu-like symptoms and more people feel dejected and gloomy. An obvious association is that illness breeds unhappiness, and, after all, no one enjoys being sick. Though it will be important for me as a doctor to treat those who are sick, won’t it be more beneficial to prevent illness in the first place? So this begs the question, why are we more inclined to get sick during the winter? The answer is certainly multidimensional, but an overlooked reason has to do with winter blues. Winter-related depression and stress can be detrimental to immune function, thus heightening susceptibility to infection.

In an effort to counteract winter doldrums, my recommendation is to develop a personal plan to maximize conditions for health. By first reflecting on how winter affects your daily routines and your overall psyche, you can then develop new goals and customs. 

Physical exercise is a proven depression buster with mood-enhancing endorphin benefits. For example, I enjoy running outside and use it as a time to get away and let my mind take a break, whereas I think running on a treadmill is extremely boring. Therefore, one of my goals this winter is to incorporate swimming into my weekly routine. And instead of running on the treadmill, I will mix up swimming with some interval training on the track in the new Walter Fieldhouse (which, by the way, is awesome if you haven’t been there yet). 

Including an exercise regimen is one of many things you could do to reduce stress and help prevent illness. 

Other important ways to positively affect your immune system and psyche on a daily basis include getting an annual flu shot, enjoying at least 15 minutes of outdoor sunlight, consuming essential vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin C and D and getting adequate sleep. 

For those Game of Thrones enthusiasts, “winter is coming,” my friends. Finding ways to improve mental and physical well-being as well as proactively taking steps to enhance your immune system will serve you well.

Mark Gottschlich is a second-year medical student at the Ohio University Heritage College of Medicine. Email him at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH