Keeping Warm and Cozy With AS
Last updated: October 2023
The winter months were always my favorite time of the year as a child, not because I enjoy the cold. I enjoyed the winter because it was almost guaranteed that I would spend plenty of time indoors and enjoying a few snow days, which I loved. However, as an adult, I dread snow days and spend more time outside during the winter than I would prefer.
Winter can be a rough time for anyone, especially those with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Between the cold weather and the aches and pains that come with it, surviving winter can be a challenge. But don’t worry! I have some tips to help you fight off the chill this season. Read on to find out how you can stay warm and cozy (and maybe even enjoy) the winter months!
Tip 1: Layer up!
While winter weather impacts everyone, managing the pain that comes with it differs for those with AS. This is especially important when you cannot avoid venturing outside at some point during the winter. Since cold weather is known to exacerbate pain symptoms, being proactive can make a big difference when it comes to symptom management. One proactive measure that can be taken is ensuring that you have the proper layers to keep you warm is essential.
A good base layer, such as a long-sleeve shirt, leggings, or thermal underwear, acts like an “extra layer of skin” on your body that can keep you warm. Depending on the temperature outside, adding a few layers of clothes, like sweaters or jackets, can help stay dry and comfortable throughout the day. It might seem simple, but I promise it makes a difference when fighting the winter chill.
Tip 2: Get moving!
Exercise is essential all year round, especially during colder months when our bodies tend to be more sluggish due to lower temperatures. However, for those with AS, low to no-impact exercises will be ideal. While attending a gym class might be great for accountability, don’t dismiss the power of exercising from the comfort of your home.
Whether going for a brisk walk or taking a yoga class—the key is to stay active and get your blood flowing! And most importantly, listen to your body when the movement that you’re engaging in is causing you unnecessary pain. The idea is not to “crush it” but to “move it” with intention. Not only will regular exercise help keep you healthy and warm, but it can also reduce stiffness from AS flare-ups.
Tip 3: Eat and drink up!
As a health coach, I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the importance of nourishing your body, especially during the wintertime. From omega-3 fatty acids—think salmon and walnuts—to vegetables, eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals can significantly help reduce inflammation.1 In addition, hot drinks like tea or hot cocoa are great for warming up on chilly days, so make sure you have plenty of these on hand this winter!
What I want to ensure you take away from this is that adequately nourishing your body is a great way to reduce AS flare-ups while keeping your body temperature up. Make sure not to go overboard with trying to “only eat clean” or consume more caffeine than you need. It’s not about perfection but taking small steps to help reduce winter flare-ups.
Now, it's time to enjoy winter!
Despite its challenges, winter doesn’t have to be all bad news! By following these three simple tips—layering up, getting moving, and nourishing your body—you’ll be able to enjoy the season while staying safe and warm against any chill that comes your way.
So bundle up, grab a hot beverage of choice, and enjoy the snow (or not)! Remember that taking care of yourself is always priority number one, no matter what season. Happy wintering and if you have a tip that's helped you during the winter, please share it below.
Do you notice worsening flares in colder weather?