Seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD, is a type of depression that affects people in the winter months. Most of us feel energetic and cheerful when the sun is shining and subdued and less active in the winter months. But seasonal affective disorder is more severe than this. Some people are unable to hold down a job in winter because of lethargy, tiredness and poor concentration; relationships often break down because the sufferer becomes irritable and unloving. Some people cannot function at all in winter without treatment.

Who is at risk for SAD?

Between October and April, a growing number of people have symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, and a further 20 percent have a milder version known popularly as the “winter blues.” It can begin at any age but is most common between the ages of 18 and 30. Symptoms disappear in spring, either suddenly (with a bout of hyperactivity) or gradually.

Seasonal affective disorder is caused by lack of light. In winter, there are fewer hours of daylight and the light is much less intense. This can mean that insufficient light gets to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls the important bodily functions of sleep, appetite, temperature, sex drive, mood and activity. For people with SAD, these functions slow down and become reduced.

Symptoms of SAD

People with seasonal affective disorder often have a low immune system in the winter and get regular colds, infections and other illnesses. To be diagnosed with the disorder you must have had three years of winter symptoms, including some of the following:

  • Sleepiness during the day or oversleeping;
  • Lack of energy for normal routine;
  • Overeating and putting on weight;
  • Feeling low; sometimes helplessness and despair;
  • Unwillingness to see people or to socialize;
  • Anxiety, tension and irritability;
  • Lack of interest in sex or physical contact.

Treatment for SAD

Light therapy

Bright light treatment helps 85 percent of people diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. It means spending up to four hours a day exposed to very bright light, or full-spectrum light which mimics natural sunlight and is ten times the intensity of domestic lighting. Light boxes that produce this light can be bought commercially. (Here are the best light therapy lamps on Amazon.)

Medications

Another option is antidepressant drugs and supplements. Newer antidepressants, such as Lustral and Prozac, can help people with severe seasonal affective disorder, and can be combined with light treatment.

Alternative Therapies

The medicinal herb St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is now a popular treatment for depression, and may also help people with seasonal affective disorder. It should not be taken with conventional antidepressants.

Living with SAD

If you’re living with SAD, it’s best to see your doctor. But here are a few quick tips to help you take control:

  • Make the most of any available daylight: go for a walk at midday in winter; decorate your home in light colours.
  • Simplify your life in winter; leave big upheavals until the summer.
  • Take a holiday in January or February.

Source: Adapted from Family Medical Adviser, Reader’s Digest

Next, check out the depression-fighting foods that may help fight SAD.

Roasted chestnuts are one of my favourite treats during the winter holiday season. Growing up, I loved the ritual of shelling and sharing them with my family, and of course their rich, buttery taste. Now, I also appreciate their nutritional punch.

Chestnuts come from the sweet chestnut tree and were first cultivated in the Mediterranean 3,000 years ago. They grow in a prickly green casing called a burr, which splits open and falls from the tree once its ripe. The season for chestnuts is relatively short, from October through December. Scoop them up while you can!

(Related: The Real Health Benefits of Eating Poppy Seeds)

Health benefits of chestnuts

Chestnuts have a creamy texture, but are approximately 40 percent water, so they’re lower in fat and calories than other nuts, such as almonds or walnuts. They’re chock-full of complex carbohydrates and fibre, which keep you feeling full and provide a stable supply of energy throughout the day, helping to prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes

One serving (about ¼ cup) contains about 20 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C and 25 percent of your recommended copper intake. Vitamin C and copper are antioxidants and support the body’s production of collagen, an essential for healthy joints and skin. Both keep your immune system strong and help fight off infections.

How to prepare and use chestnuts

You can include chestnuts in savoury and sweet recipes, and the best preparation method depends on the type of dish you’re making. For salads, snacks, and stuffing, keep the chestnuts dry by roasting them. For soups and purées, boiling is best, so the chestnuts are softer and easier to blend. Use a knife to score an ‘x’ on both ends of the chestnuts before boiling or roasting (this will prevent them from exploding during cooking). When the ‘x’ pops open, the chestnuts are done, and the hard, outer shell and membrane can easily be removed.

Chestnuts provide rich flavour and texture to bread stuffing for meat and poultry roasts; or, pop them in the oven alongside vegetables like Brussels sprouts to breathe new life into standard side dishes. They are starchier than other nuts, so they have thickening power, which helps to add creaminess to soups and purées.
On the sweeter side, look for crème de marrons, a classic French spread made from ground chestnuts and sweetened with sugar. Try it on toast or crepes or add it to steamed milk to create a festive spin on a latté.

(Related: You’re Going to Want to Get Pomegranates Right Now)

What to look for when buying chestnuts

Look for glossy shells and give them a shake — if they rattle, they’ve dried out. Chestnuts perish quickly but will last up to one week in the fridge.

Fresh chestnuts have the best texture and flavour but shelling them can take a while. If you’re pressed for time, the pre-roasted, shelled, and vacuum-packed varieties work well. These are also great for snacking. Canned chestnuts work, too, but drain and dry them thoroughly before using in cooking.

Don’t miss your chance to do more than sing about this wintertime gem — no open fire required!

Laura Jeha is a Registered Dietitian, nutrition counsellor, recipe developer and food writer living in Toronto. Find out more at ahealthyappetite.ca.

Next: Ths is the perfect cookbook for stressful times.

It can be hard to stay motivated and active in the colder months, especially when the pandemic has forced many of us to exercise at home. In the Before Times, I loved going to IRL fitness classes—I’ve tried everything from Yin Yoga to Pound (a cardio workout where you pretend to be a drummer in a rock band; I highly recommend it). When COVID forced me to turn a 2 by 2 metre section of my living room into my home gym, my activity level dropped exponentially. So, when I got the chance to try MIRROR, a fitness brand and product now owned by Lululemon, I jumped at the chance.

MIRROR launched earlier this year in the States, and the product (and its app) is arriving in Canada on November 22 this year. Marketed as a “nearly invisible, smart home gym,” MIRROR is part-normal mirror, part-TV screen, and nothing like other at-home gym options as it takes up zero floor space—you can hang it up or lean it against a wall. Plus, while a spin bike stays a spin bike (or, something to toss dirty laundry on) MIRROR is just a normal mirror whenever you aren’t working out with it making it a functional option for people with small living spaces. However, the price is sky-high: the normal base price of the device is $1895, then you pay $49 monthly for access to classes. For comparison, the basic Peloton and an all-access membership for its app costs the same.

(Related: Can Apple Fitness+ Change Your At-Home Workout Game?)

I tried MIRROR at the Lululemon store on Queen Street West in Toronto, and it looked like something straight out of Black Mirror. Through its sleek, thin screen, I could see both my own reflection and a scrolling display of workout classes and community-member chatter. I also noticed that there was a camera in the device, which can be turned on for live classes so the instructor can see you. Thankfully, MIRROR comes with a camera cover (so it can’t creepily watch me sleep—my deep-seated personal fear).

Once I started working out, the sci-fi-ness faded into the back of my mind. The mobile app that accompanies and controls MIRROR is similar to the Nike app, and asks for a bunch of personal details (age, skill level, goals and any limitations you have, like injuries). It will then offer workout modifications at the bottom left corner of the screen to make the class more appropriate to you. Plus, as you use MIRROR, it will start to suggest classes based on your preferences as it gets to know you (okay, this part is VERY Black Mirror). You can also connect any Bluetooth fitness tracker, like your Apple Watch or FitBit, so it can measure your heart rate and calories burnt.

MIRROR’s catalogue of classes is massive, with 50 different categories including yoga, dance, cardio, Tai Chi, pre- and postnatal workouts, ballet, Pilates and more. Classes range from five to 60 minutes, and you can choose from four difficulty levels, many of which can be done with no equipment (though some do incorporate kettlebells and weights).

(Related: I Need You to Know: Fitness Is Not One Size Fits All)

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On top of the on-demand classes, MIRROR members can join live classes. If you choose to turn your camera on, your instruction can see you and shout you out. Or, if you love competition, you can join a Competitive Class where you earn points when you hit your target heart rate. And, if you crave one-on-one time, MIRROR also offers personal training sessions at $50 a pop.

For my demo, I decided to try a 15-minute cardio class. I twisted my ankle the weekend prior, so I picked a class that didn’t include jumps or other injury-aggravating moves—info that the class description gave me right off the bat, which I appreciated. Despite choosing “level 1,” an absolute beginner class, it immediately got my heart pumping and glutes burning (no jumps meant lots of side lunges).

I thought that I’d be self-consciously peering at myself during the whole workout, but instead I found it intuitive to concentrate on the instructor and wasn’t at all distracted by my out-of-focus reflection during the peak of the class. When I moved on to the cooldown (a 15-minute slow, restorative Yin yoga flow class) though, I did catch myself watching my reflection instead of connecting to my breath.

Despite how sleek (and admittedly, cool) MIRROR is, my favourite part of the product has nothing to do with the hardware itself. I absolutely loved the accompanying app—the huge variety of classes, how much you could modify and customize workouts and the trainers’ great energy. I think I could’ve gotten an equally good workout with the app’s video playing over my TV (and, luckily, you can stream MIRROR classes to your TV using a compatible casting device like Apple TV or Chromecast, though it’s unclear which functionalities disappear without the hardware).

That being said, when compared to other similarly priced fitness gadgets like a Peloton, MIRROR is a much more compact device with way more class options to pick from—giving it an edge over comparable workout systems. All in all, I think I’ll try out the MIRROR app and broadcast it to my Apple TV to get the best of MIRROR without the Black Mirror vibes.

Lululemon MIRROR, $1895, launches November 22

Next: 4 Stretches to Improve Range of Motion as You Age

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Breathe easy?

The average adult takes about 20,000 breaths per day. That’s 20,000 opportunities to breathe in the contaminants that pollute our air. According to the EPA, pollutants are three to five times more powerful inside than out. On top of that, Health Canada reports that we Canadians spend 90% of our time indoors – and even more in winter. And as we seal the cold air out, we’re also sealing in bacteria, viruses, mould, pet hair, unseemly odours and more. But that’s not all!

Let’s talk microparticles.

The air may look clean, but microparticles like dust, mite debris, pollen – even powdered sugar – are 99% invisible to the eye. What’s more? They can make up a whopping 99% of the air we breathe! So, with temperatures dropping, and winter looming, it’s time for a gentle reminder to filter the air we breathe as best we can – with a trusted brand like Filtrete™.

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The indoor air effect.

There are considerable health risks that come with simply breathing indoors. The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCDC) reports that poor indoor air quality has numerous side effects, including headaches, tiredness, coughing, sneezing, sinus congestion, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea. It can irritate the skin, eyes, nose or throat. It can cause allergy and asthma symptoms to get worse. Think of it this way – the smaller the microparticle, the harder it is to capture, and the longer it stays in your lungs.

(Air)quality control.

So how do you take change of indoor air quality? The BCDC lists a number of ways to improve air quality at home, but at the top of the list? Control the sources (vacuum regularly, mitigate dampness, and don’t burn incense or smoke inside), improve ventilation and, importantly, change those air filters regularly. Needless to say, not all air filters are created the same, and it’s key to find a brand you can count on. Enter 3M’s Filtrete™ filters, which have improved the air quality of millions of homes in the company’s 25-year history. Indeed, in its whopping quarter-century-long lifespan, Filtrete™ Filters have leveraged leading engineering and innovation to keep homes safe, in effect becoming one of the most trusted indoor filtration brands on the market today.

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It’s down to science.

What’s so great about Filtrete™ Filters? The science is simple but powerful. Designed to capture airborne allergens, Filtrete™ Filters use proprietary electrostatic charges to attract and trap those microscopic particles. They’re like magnets for mould, pet hair, dust, mite debris, bacteria and more. They trap microparticles in as air flows through.

Pick your filter.

When shopping for Filtrete™ Filters, looks for the proprietary Microparticle Rating (MPR rating) to pick a filter that suits your family’s needs. With specialized filters that target allergens, odours, smoke, pet hair and dander, and even viruses and bacteria, Filtrete™ Filters makes it easy to choose. Simply log onto Filtrete.ca, click on your biggest concerns, and find the filter that suits you.

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Air, purified.

To amp up your line of defence against particles, microparticles and more, consider an air purifier. Filtrete™ Brand’s new line of Room Air Purifiers are fitted with a True HEPA Filter, which can help capture 99.97% of particles both micro and major – making it among the most powerful on the market. Of course, even air purifiers need their filters changed regularly. So how can you stay on top of it?

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Filter maintenance.

There aren’t hard and fast rules about how often you should change your air filter – it comes down to use and lifestyle. Factors like pets, number of people and smoke all affect your changing schedule, but luckily, Filtrete™ Filters have an app for that. Customized to your lifestyle, Filtrete™ Smart App can track your filter life, remind you when it’s time for a new one, and even provide tips and tricks to help you manage your indoor air to keep you breathing easy all winter – and year! – long.

At the end of a busy and stressful spring, Christine Beard developed what she thought was a tension headache. Instead of subsiding after a visit to her chiropractor, the pain intensified in her right eyebrow, and spread to her forehead and scalp on that side of her face. Her family doctor told her to monitor the pain and come back if it got worse.

Not only did the pain increase, Beard developed a bump the size of a Cadbury mini egg on her eyebrow. She rushed to urgent care, but the doctor sent her home without answers. When the bump started to crack open and reveal an angry red rash, the 44-year-old finally received a diagnosis from a different urgent care physician: she had shingles. Beard was given antivirals to minimize the spread and told to self-isolate until the rash subsided. 

The diagnosis doesn’t surprise Beard, a pastry chef instructor at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. 

“Basically, shingles pops up when you’re stressed, and COVID changes in your lifestyle alone stresses you out,” says Beard. Prior to getting sick, she had weathered an entire year teaching under restrictive COVID conditions. She was also physically exhausted from trying to counter the stress with 100-km bike rides and 20-km hikes. “I was worn out.” 

Shingles in Canada seems to be on the rise

Like sleepless nights and hair loss, getting shingles looks to be another knock-on effect of living under chronic stress during the pandemic.

I can relate—I developed shingles on my left inner thigh in September 2020, when I was 49, likely due to the nervous anticipation of sending my kids back to school (with the vaccine still months away from reality) after a summer of zero breaks from them. I was the third case of shingles the doctor at the walk-in clinic had seen that day. 

“Shingles seems to be more rampant this year than previous years,” says Dr. Craig Jenne, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary. 

Data isn’t available on the percentage of increase in shingles cases in Canada over the course of the pandemic, but anecdotally, Jenne is hearing a lot more about it from colleagues commenting on the number of cases they’ve seen. And it makes sense given the nature of the virus that causes it. 

Shingles typically presents as an itchy, tingly or painful skin rash with blisters on one side of the body, usually the trunk or face. It’s caused by a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus,  the same virus that gives you chicken pox, so anyone who experienced that childhood illness is susceptible. Basically, after you recover from chicken pox the virus never entirely leaves your body—it goes dormant and lives in your nerves, kept in check by a healthy immune system. It’s like a ticking time bomb, waiting for the right combination of immune distress (or high stress!) to resurface as shingles. 

“Shingles is very much a disease that activates or re-activates if the patient’s immune system begins to fade, and the principal cause of that in most people is things such as stress,” says Jenne. “So if you get stressed, we know that suppresses your immune system and that allows the shingles virus to reactivate.”

(Related: The “Other” Virus That’s Putting Those 50+ at Risk

Decline in shingles vaccines

Adults over age 50 are more susceptible to developing shingles (our immune systems weaken naturally as we age), which is why a shingles vaccine is available to that group. 

But fewer Canadians are getting routine vaccinations during the pandemic, which is another factor that could be playing into shingles’ prevalence—an estimated four million adults in Canada have missed or delayed shots during COVID, according to a poll conducted by the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada. What’s more, internal market data shared by GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the Shingrix vaccine for shingles, suggests a 22 percent decline in shingles vaccinations in Canada from Sept. 2019 to Sept. 2020, worsening to a 30 percent decline by Sept. 2021. 

Though the majority of shingles cases appear in older Canadians, younger adults can get it, too, especially when shouldering the worries of the world—and juggling our work and personal life from home—like we’ve all been doing since March 2020. 

It’s not run-of-the-mill stress that triggers it, either, Jenne clarifies. “We’re talking prolonged stress that’s amplified by things such as dysregulated sleep, perhaps diet changes,” he says. Not to mention the closed gyms and spas that have made it that much harder to de-stress these past 20 months. 

(Related: COVID-19 Vaccines Are Vital—And So Are These

How to protect against shingles

For Kelowna entrepreneur Jules Taschereau, the onset of both bouts of her ophthalmic shingles was undeniably stress-related. Taschereau, the proprietor of Limey, The British Shop, owns and runs three businesses and works 100-hour weeks. On top of that, Taschereau and her fiancé had to postpone their wedding five times during the pandemic due to gathering and event restrictions. 

“It was brutal. It was stress beyond what you’d expect,” she says. “Living in a pandemic has pushed people over the edge.” 

Taschereau’s second round of shingles this fall was so painful—even the weight of her hair hanging from her head hurt—that the 48-year-old does not want to get it a third time and plans to get vaccinated as soon as she turns 50. 

For those under 50, the best advice for keeping shingles at bay is to keep stress levels down. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Eat a balanced diet. 

“That’s the same advice we’re giving people to avoid colds and flus,” says Jenne. “If you’re stressed and overtired, all sorts of infections can take advantage of that.” 

Beard has taken that advice to heart. Since recovering from shingles in the summer, she’s made a conscious effort to slow down.

“I’m not as busy as before and I’m saying no to a lot more things,” says Beard. “It’s really important to take care of yourself.”

Next: Flu Season Is Going to Hit Hard. Here’s How to Prepare

Pomegranates are round, red fruits that grow on shrub-like trees in South Asia, California and the Mediterranean regions of Europe. Botanically, pomegranates are considered a berry, but visually they’re in a class all their own. A smooth outer skin contains a white membrane which holds the pomegranate arils, the thin skin and pulp which surround the small, white seeds. The arils hold the bright, ruby-red juice of the pomegranate, which has a refreshingly sweet-tart taste, while the thick skin and membrane are inedible.

(Related: 13 Fall Superfoods Nutritionists Recommend Eating)

How pomegranates are grown

Pomegranates start out as red-orange flowers that bloom in the springtime. The flowers release a distinctive fragrance that attracts bees and encourages pollination, and in a spectacular feat of nature, as the pomegranate flower is pollinated, each pomegranate aril is created from a piece of pollen. As the growing season goes on, the flower balloons out into the pomegranate, leaving a flared crown on the end which gives each fruit a regal look.

Mediterranean climates are ideal for growing pomegranates, as they thrive in warm climates with limited humidity. The hot, sun-filled days ripen the arils on the inside, while the cool nights turn the outer skin from green to red. Pomegranates are ready to harvest by autumn and are available from October through January.

Pomegranates through history

What do the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, Renaissance royalty, doctors and artists all have in common? A deep-seeded obsession with pomegranates.

Across cultures and religions from Hinduism to Christianity, pomegranates have been a symbol of prosperity, and represented fertility and regeneration. In ancient Egypt pomegranates symbolized the promise of an afterlife, and pomegranate-shaped vases have been found in the tombs of pharaohs. They’re considered a cure for ailments like coughs and liver issues, and today, pomegranates still appear on the coat of arms of the British Medical Association as an emblem of healing.

Once you’ve been tipped off to the cultural prominence of pomegranates, you start to notice that the fruit makes cameos in artwork and writing everywhere, spanning centuries. Like the fruit version of Where’s Waldo, you’ll spot pomegranates in multiple works, like those by the great Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli (of Sistine Chapel fame), modern painter Salvador Dali’s surrealist scenes and even in the pages of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

If you’re feeling inspired, channel good fortune and health for the year ahead and include pomegranates on your table, too.

(Related: Your Game Plan for Small-Scale, Stress-Free Holiday Meals)

Pomegranate health benefits

In ancient times, pomegranates were touted as a giver of life and fertility, and while these claims may be a bit grandiose nowadays, there are present-day benefits, too.

Pomegranates are best known for their high antioxidant content, especially punicalagin, a potent antioxidant present in the pomegranate’s juice and peel. Our gut bacteria and stomach acid convert punicalagin into urolithins, dynamic active compounds that have a range of health benefits, such as helping to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. They have anticancer effects, too. Because of these powerful compounds, pomegranate juice has three times the antioxidant activity as red wine or green tea.

Pomegranate arils are also a good source of fibre, which keeps you feeling full and satisfied, and vitamin C, which contributes to healthy immune function.

Don’t forget about the pomegranate seeds. Punicic acid, the primary essential fatty acid in pomegranate seeds, also has unique health benefits, like lowering levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and improving responses to insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar), resulting in an antidiabetic effect.

What to look for

Pomegranates are at their ripest when picked, but look for firmness and size when shopping. Seek out pomegranates with firm flesh and avoid those that have turned a deep red or whose skin is wrinkled—those are signs of age. And pick a pomegranate that feels heavy for its size — it means it’s full of juice! Pomegranates will keep on the counter for about 10 days or up to a few weeks in the refrigerator before drying out.

How to use pomegranates

Pomegranates are often called the “jewel of winter,” an appropriate name as they add a welcome pop of colour to an otherwise monochrome palette of winter foods. A sprinkle of pomegranate seeds as a garnish instantly turns any dish into the sparkly centerpiece of a meal. Add the seeds to morning yogurt or oatmeal, salads, side dishes like rice pilafs, or as a garnish for dips or roasted vegetables. For a stunning end to a meal, try adding the seeds to a whipped cream-topped pavlova or trifle.

You can also purchase pure pomegranate juice, which contains high levels of antioxidants and makes a wonderful (and healthful) addition to cocktails, mocktails or smoothies. Try using it instead of cranberry juice in a festive punch for a fun spin on a classic.

Another pomegranate offshoot is pomegranate molasses, which is made from boiling down the juice until reduced to a thick, dark syrup. This concentrates the flavours, and the result is actually slightly sour, not sweet, making it ideal in savoury cooking. It makes a great glaze for grilled chicken, can be whisked into salad dressings or drizzled as a final touch for roasted carrots, imparting a depth and complexity that add a can’t-put-your-finger-on-it oomph.

Whether it’s adding them to your morning oatmeal or jazzing up a charcuterie board, pomegranates will make whatever you use them for both merry and bright.

Prep Tip: Pomegranate seeds can be difficult to remove from the membrane. The easiest way to remove them is to cut the pomegranate in half, then hold the half cut side down over a large bowl and whack it with the back of a wooden spoon. The bowl will catch the pomegranate seeds and your palm will help the membrane stay put.

Next: A Recipe for Spice-Roasted Carrots with Yogurt and Antioxidant-Rich Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranates are best known for their high antioxidant content, especially punicalagin, a potent antioxidant present in the pomegranate’s juice.

(Related: You’re Going to Want to Get Pomegranates Right Now)

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Increased scientific evidence is establishing the efficacy of topicals – that is, lotions or oils applied externally to your body – in treating medical conditions. For symptoms like chronic pain, patients are finding that topicals can relieve their suffering and improve their quality of life, however many of us still have questions. To help you make informed healthcare decisions, we reached out to ZYUS, a Canadian life sciences company based in Saskatoon that is developing cannabinoid topical formulations for patients. The company’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lionel Marks de Chabris, answered some common questions to guide us through a few fundamentals of topicals:

What is a topical?

Topicals are medications combined with a base substance, like a cream, that allows the medication to be absorbed through the skin. As stated in a study in the journal, Molecules, cannabinoids can be formulated as topicals for localized relief of pain, soreness and inflammation. Because little is absorbed into the bloodstream, topicals are non-intoxicating, and are often chosen by patients who want the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids, without the potential side effects.

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Will using cannabinoid topicals make me high?

THC is the active ingredient in some cannabinoid formulations that can cause intoxication (a feeling of being “high”) when it is absorbed and travels to the brain. While some topicals do contain THC, according to a study in the Forensic Science International Journal, very little is absorbed into the bloodstream, so topicals are unlikely to produce the intoxicating effects that can occur with other delivery methods, such as smoking or ingestion.

What are the active ingredients in a topical?

Cannabinoids are the active ingredient in cannabis-based topicals. All topical products in Canada are required to list the total amount of THC and CBD on each container. Research demonstrates that cannabinoid-based topicals have the therapeutic potential to provide relief of inflammation and neuropathic pain without unwanted side effects.

What is the difference between Oils and Topicals?

Your skin is tough. It’s meant to protect you and does a great job of preventing substances – like cannabinoid oils – from penetrating through. That’s why you have to take cannabinoid oils by mouth so they can be easily absorbed and available to work all over your body.
Topicals, on the other hand, are designed to penetrate through your skin to work in a limited area and provide local targeted relief. This focused effect of topicals is what makes them so handy and useful. – Dr. Marks de Chabris

To learn more about ZYUS, visit ZYUS.com/pain.

References:
Hammell, D C et al. “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis.” European Journal of Pain. Vol. 20,6 (2016): 936-48. doi:10.1002/ejp.818 Bruni, Natascia et al. “Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment.” Molecules. Vol. 23,10 2478. 27 Sep. 2018, doi:10.3390/molecules23102478

For exercise to really count, it has to be hard or complicated, or leave you totally wiped out with muscle pain for days—right? Not at all! While high-intensity activity certainly has its place, so does the most basic, accessible form of exercise: walking. And in 2020, it’s become an even more vital physical activity for many people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), walking is the most popular form of aerobic exercise among adults in the United States. The most recent stats show that more than 145 million adults include walking as part of a physically active lifestyle. People walk for transportation and for fun, relaxation, or exercise, or for other reasons. It makes sense.

“Everybody knows how to do it already, so there’s no learning curve,” says Michele Stanten, certified fitness instructor and author of Walk off Weight and coauthor of The Walking Solution.

“When you believe in your ability to do [an exercise], you’re more likely to stick with it,” she adds. “That’s why so many people walk for exercise. It’s easy to do, and you can do it anywhere. You just need just a good supportive pair of shoes.”

There are also endless ways to walk. Walking your dog, hiking, sight-seeing, power-walking, treadmill striding, and mall walking are all legit ways to get some steps in.

(Related: 14 Benefits of Walking for Just 15 Minutes)

Walking is great for all exercise levels

One of the biggest reasons walking is so popular is because it’s a low-impact exercise, meaning it doesn’t put nearly as much pressure on the joints as running or any sort of jumping or hopping movement. The risk of injury is relatively low, says Lauryn Mohr, personal trainer and metabolic specialist at Life Time Fitness in Omaha, Nebraska.

Starting is easy

For people just getting started with fitness, walking is a wonderful form of cardio or aerobic exercise, says Mohr. “You don’t need any prior or special knowledge or training to start.”

Just get up and walk, and you’ll get your heart and lungs working. Unlike other forms of cardio—like running, biking, dance workouts, or boxing—walking isn’t intimidating and it doesn’t require lessons or special equipment.

Not just for beginners

But it’s also great for advanced athletes, who may think it isn’t challenging enough, Mohr says. “Walking is very, very underrated.”

For people who already have a higher level of cardiovascular fitness, walking is a stellar activity for recovery. It’s a gentle way to get the blood flowing and circulate oxygen and nutrients to hard-worked muscles, Mohr explains.

Excellent for recovery

“Enhanced blood flow is going to improve recovery and help ease muscle soreness,” she says. “It’s not going to completely eliminate it, but it can help reduce it and accelerate the muscle repair process.” It can also help flush out waste products—chemicals that are released in the body when our cells create and use energy to power through a tough workout—which may further boost recovery, says Mohr.

A small 2018 study from the American Council on Exercise and Western State Colorado University found that moderate-intensity activity can help athletes maintain endurance performance and power output compared to simply resting or doing active recovery at a vigorous intensity.

“A lot of people don’t view walking as exercise, and it tends to be those folks that probably need it the most,” Mohr says.

(Related: Walking This Number of Minutes Will Boost Your Mood)

Even a slow stroll has major benefits

Walking is a go-to cardiovascular exercise for some good reasons. “Walking can improve your circulation and aerobic fitness, control blood pressure, improve blood sugars, as well as decrease stress,” says Ivan Sulapas, MD, primary care sports medicine physician and assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

And you don’t need to walk at a particularly rushed pace to reap the benefits. “Any movement will have benefits, even a casual stroll,” says Dr. Sulapas. “Our bodies are not meant to sit around all day—they are meant to move.”

Just because a simple stroll around the block doesn’t make you breathe heavily or sweat buckets doesn’t mean it isn’t doing something good for your body. Your heart and lungs and brain will all be better off with any sort of activity, even if it’s low-key.

“In 2020 it’s so important that people find a good relationship with walking because for a lot of people, it may be their small opportunity for movement,” says Mohr.

Job changes, relocations, money concerns, worrying about our own health and our loved ones’ health—it’s safe to say there are a lot of stressful things going on. And walking, even for just 10 minutes, has been shown to be an effective mood booster. Simply spending some time outside can be beneficial, too, says Stanten.

Walking is also a good exercise for practicing social distance, Dr. Sulapas says.

(Related: The Best Walking Workout for Older People)

How to start walking for fitness

Experts recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. This can be broken down into small, doable spurts of activity; in fact, it should be, if you’re just starting out. If you want to use walking as your aerobic activity of choice, here’s how to get the most out of it.

Check with your doctor before starting

This is especially important if you have any medical or orthopedic conditions that may limit your walking ability, says Dr. Sulapas. For example, walking is a great exercise to help patients with high blood pressure or diabetes, but make sure your doctor knows the activities you’re doing and can advise you accordingly.

“If someone has an ongoing hip, knee, ankle, or foot issue that may limit their walking ability, I recommend seeing a sports medicine doctor to see what safe exercises they can do,” he adds. “A sports medicine doctor can provide an appropriate exercise prescription so they can start their fitness journey while minimizing risk of injury.”

Get a comfy pair of shoes

The only equipment you need to walk for fitness is a good pair of sneakers. Make sure they fit properly and support your feet.

Keep safety in mind

Finding a safe route is important, says Stanten. “You need to be careful depending on the area you’re walking in, and always be conscious of your surroundings.”

Don’t crank up your playlist so loudly that you can’t hear cars, bikers, or pedestrians around you. And make sure to wear reflective clothing if you’re walking early in the morning or late at night when it’s dark out.

(Related: 7 Tips for Walking Outside During the Coronavirus Pandemic)

Start slow and progress slowly

“Starting slow is a great idea, as you can gauge the level of fitness you are currently at,” says Dr. Sulapas. “If you can only walk for a certain number of minutes or just around the block, then you have your baseline.”

Even if it’s just five or 10 minutes at a time, that’s great. From there, you can gradually pick up the pace.

“As your fitness level improves, you will start to notice that you can walk faster at a set distance in a shorter amount of time, or build the endurance to walk longer than the previous times,” he says. Dr. Sulapas recommends noting how much you can do in a week; then increase the distance or time by about 10 percent the next week.

Make it a habit

To reap the benefits of walking, Mohr recommends making it a healthy habit.

“I like to build on something most people are already doing and then attach a new habit to it,” she says. “For most beginners, I recommend walking after a meal. You’re already in the habit of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So start with walking for 10 minutes after every meal.”

At the end of the day, you’ll have accumulated 30 minutes of walking. If that doesn’t fit with your schedule, start doing it after just one meal, and then either extend the length or add in more walks throughout the day over time.

(Related: 11 Easy Ways to Make Walking More Fun)

Pick up the pace when you want

Walking doesn’t have to be intense, but if you want to challenge yourself a little more and get your heart rate higher, it’s easy to do. Try adding some high-intensity intervals into your walk, says Stanten. Push yourself at a fast pace for 30 seconds, and then go back to your normal comfortable pace for a few minutes.

Over time, try walking at that faster pace for longer, or adding more quick intervals more often. Instead of thinking about time, you can use landmarks or music to guide your intervals, Stanten says.

“Walk fast to that next tree or the next house. Pick a faster-paced song and walk to that beat, and then use a slower-paced song and walk to that beat,” she suggests. That will allow you to push a bit and then have some time to recover before pushing again.

Remember to warm up

“Warming up the muscles is always a good idea before an exercise,” says Dr. Sulapas.

Walking is already a form of warming up, so there are a few options here. You can simply start extra slowly, giving your body five minutes or so to wake up and get blood flowing to all the muscles that need it, says Stanten. Then pick up the pace as you see fit.

You can also do some warm-up exercises at home before you take your first step.

“I usually recommend doing some upper body shoulder rolls, swinging your legs in place, rolling your foot from heel to toe back and forth, body squats, and rotating your torso left and right,” Dr. Sulapas says. “This helps warm up the muscles and get the circulation going before you walk.”

(Related: How to Warm Up Properly Before A Winter Workout)

And stretch afterward if you can

Dr. Sulapas often recommends stretching the lower-body muscles—quads, hamstrings, calves—after a walk.

Stretching after walking helps improve the circulation so your muscles can heal, as well as decreases the soreness and stiffness that can happen after a workout,” Dr. Sulapas says. “Typically, I recommend holding the stretch for at least 30 seconds to get its maximum effect.”

While it’s always good to do some stretches after a walk when you can, it’s not totally mandatory every time, says Stanten. If some days you only have time for a quick walk and nothing else, that’s fine. Your body and mind will definitely be better for it.

Next: 9 Walking Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making

I was always told that exfoliating was a necessity. As someone with oily, acne-prone skin, I stocked up on drugstore-brand scrubs as a teen and now use chemical exfoliants as an essential part of my skin care routine. At one point, I was using either a chemical or physical exfoliant (and sometimes both!) nightly—until my skin started to look red and flushed. Even gently applying my daily SPF turned my face beet red.

After a facial, where the esthetician called out my skin for being red and sensitive, I found out the culprit was in my skin care routine. I was exfoliating way too much, making my skin prone to irritation even if I wasn’t actively irritating it.

I talked to experts, Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, a board-certified dermatologist with Bay Dermatology Centre in Toronto, and Dr. Malika Ladha, a dual-board certified dermatologist based in Toronto and Canadian Dermatology Association resident and fellow society co-chair, all about exfoliating, over-exfoliating and over-exfoliated skin.

(Related: 6 Microbiome-Boosting Skin Care Products You Never Knew You Needed)

What is exfoliating and why is it important?

Essentially, exfoliating is the removal of dead skin cells, dirt and oil from the skin’s top layer (a.k.a. the epidermis). “Our skin is always naturally exfoliating itself, you get a new top layer about every 30 days,” says Skotnicki, adding that over time, that cycle slows down.

There are different types of exfoliants including chemical products like glycolic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA). There are also manual exfoliants, which typically work by physically scrubbing the skin.

These products can be great for your skin, especially as you age. “You have extra layers on the face so removing a few can help you look brighter and shinier. It can also improve the delivery of certain products as you get older,” says Skotnicki. Plus, according to Ladha, exfoliating can help those with acne-prone skin or oily skin as the process removes dirt and oil which can clog your pores and cause acne.

So, can you over-exfoliate?

Absolutely. “It’s something that we derms commonly see,” says Ladha. “When patients come in with irritated or inflamed skin that can appear as itchy red patches and an increased sensitivity to products that normally wouldn’t irritate them, that’s when we know someone’s exfoliating too much.” Plus, using manual exfoliants on your face can cause blood vessels to break if you do it often, says Skotnicki.

Skotnicki notes exfoliating once a week is fine for most people and can be super helpful if you struggle with clogged pores or acne.

What does over-exfoliated skin feel like?

Along with irritated and inflamed skin, itchiness, redness and increased sensitivity be on the lookout for a burning sensation or skin tightness. “As you remove [the top layer of your skin], you’re going to make your skin more reactive or intolerant to things that you put on it,” says Skotnicki. “One of the ways sensitive skin manifests from over-exfoliation is as you go in to use your products as you normally would, it would irritate you and you feel stung.”

What are the long-term effects of over-exfoliating?

When there’s inflammation for a prolonged period, there’s a small risk of causing pigmentary changes, says Ladha. “Hyperpigmentation, or when the skin gets darker, or hypopigmentation, where the skin gets lighter compared to the surrounding skin, could occur if there’s prolonged ongoing inflammation.” Pigmentary change from over-exfoliating is more of a risk for darker skin types.

So yes, I was way overdoing it with exfoliating. Luckily, since cutting back, I’ve noticed my skin feels less irritated, looks less red and I can now apply all my other products without feeling like my skin is burning.

Next: Does Dry Brushing Really Make Your Skin Healthier?