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Beat the winter blues

How to stay fit physically and cognitively year-round

Created date

January 31st, 2014
Beat the winter blues
Beat the winter blues

Nearly everyone gets the “winter blues” now and then. The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and the cold air nips at your nose, making isolation more common during winter months. But some people suffer from a more severe form of depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression, commonly sets in as the days grow shorter. Though studies have shown that SAD primarily affects younger people, in particular, women in their 20s to 40s, it can affect older adults, too, especially those isolated at home.

However, for those who deal with SAD, exercise and social interaction can help. 

“The winter blues can be warded off not only from physical activity, but from social activity, as well,” says Ruth Phillips, sales counselor at Crest, the Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J. “That’s why our community has more than 180 clubs and activities to help keep residents healthy and happy all year round.”

To find out more, I turned to Cedar Crest Resident Life Manager Erica Zayat and Wellness Manager Nicole Cox. Here are their recommendations for beating the winter blues:

Cedar Crest Resident Life Manager Erica Zayat

Q: Cedar Crest has a ton of clubs and activities for residents to stay active and involved. How does staying social and active benefit older adults?

A: We have between 183 and 186 clubs and activities at any given time. And if someone wants an activity we don’t offer, we help make it happen.

Staying active has many benefits. One of the main benefits is that it gives you a purpose—you’re involved in something for a reason; you’re not just busy. 

The nice thing about living in a community like Cedar Crest is you have all of these opportunities available, and you can participate or you don’t have to—it’s up to you. However, we do see that people who participate more have more of a spark, more friends, and are more social.

Q: Is there such a thing as “winter blues,” and how can staying involved in one or more of the activities at Cedar Crest help someone stay happier and more positive during winter? 

A: I’m sure people get more down in winter; I know I do! But our community is climate-controlled, so you can stay involved and active regardless of the weather, which helps combat the winter blues. Even if there is a blizzard, you can still go to lunch with friends, to your group exercise class, or even swim in the pool and watch the flurries outside. You can still go on with your day-to-day life with little to no interruption.

Q: Do you find there is a significant benefit to living at Cedar Crest, where social activities are readily available, rather than isolated in one’s house, when it comes to health and happiness? 

A: There’s definitely a benefit to living at Cedar Crest where everything is available. Living with more than 2,000 other residents, you have numerous friends who invite you to events and dinners, and you get to know so many friendly people. The residents and staff become family, and everyone always talks to one another. 

Staying socially and physically active, and having anything you need readily available at your fingertips is a huge advantage to living at Cedar Crest. I see a big difference in people who moved here to get more involved—they seem to be more positive and acclimate quickly. You are less likely to be isolated because you come out for meals, events, classes, and entertainment events, and your friends (both staff and fellow residents) will want you to join them. 

Safety-wise, it is incredibly beneficial to live at Cedar Crest because we have emergency pull cords in every apartment that will alert 24-hour on-site medical staff if you are in need of assistance. 

Everything we offer is comforting to residents’ families as well. They know their loved one is having fun, enjoying life, sharing their gifts with others, and living in a beautiful and safe place to enjoy it all.

Cedar Crest Wellness Manager Nicole Cox

Q: We all know fitness helps us stay physically healthy. But how do fitness and group exercise classes, in particular, help older adults stay cognitively fit, too? 

A: Exercise enhances blood flow to the brain and the entire body, increasing endorphins—those “feel-good” hormones.

The combination of aerobic exercise with strength training appears to have a greater effect on cognition than aerobic exercise alone, and activity should be performed for more than 30 minutes. Our group exercise classes are 40 minutes long and typically combine aerobic, strength, and balance training. 

The instructor is also able to push participants harder than they might push themselves if they were working out on their own to help them achieve greater levels of fitness. 

Also, regular socialization has been shown to help with memory, and group exercise provides that opportunity.

Q: Is there a social aspect to group fitness that makes people more likely to keep coming back to the fitness center, leading them to stay healthier and happier?

A: Absolutely! We offer a variety of different classes, from Pilates to kettlebells to cycling to Zumba. There’s a class for almost everybody here, which helps drive motivation. Plus, it’s very social. 

Usually, a class is made up of a group of people who have similar interests, so a lot of them come together to class. That drives social motivation—friends encouraging friends to go to class and driving that sense of obligation or responsibility to go, not just for yourself but for your friends. 

Q: What are some of your most popular group fitness classes?

A: Our most popular classes are Core and Back, Falls Prevention, and Zumba. But we also add programs and rotate programs throughout the year to boost participation. For example, in the winter we add an indoor cycle class so you can be inside and ride a bicycle. And we have the pool, so there can be three feet of snow on the ground and you can be swimming, watching the snow fall outside. 

Additionally, we encourage indoor walking because all of our buildings are connected, so you can walk for miles without ever going outside. That’s a huge benefit to living here at Cedar Crest. 

All of these opportunities to get and stay fit not only benefit our residents physically but mentally as well.