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February 21, 2018

Tips to Staying Healthy this Winter

This week’s blog post writer, Susanne Leslie, is a Curriculum & Instruction Specialist with Learners Edge. Prior to joining the Edge, Susanne worked as a parent educator in Minnesota’s Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program and worked with parents of 0-5 year olds. Susanne is the proud parent of two daughters.

From Tromso to the Teachers’ Lounge: Healthy Tips to Outsmart Winter

In a recent article in Experience Life magazine (October, 2016) researcher, and Stanford University PhD candidate, Kari Leibowitz described what she learned about Norwegians who live in Tromso, Norway–200 miles north of the Arctic Circle “I was curious to discover how those living so far to the north remain healthy and fit through the long, dark, cold winter.”

According to her research,

Norwegians’ mindsets and attitudes about winter play a role in how they’ve come to view the “polar night”—those string of nights where the sun never moves above the horizon. They adjust their attitudes and embrace the darkness—and think of winter in a positive way while “cultivating coziness”—that is, they light candles, drink warm drinks, and add kindling to the fire.”

Those of us who reside in the north understand this concept of coziness—we dig out our wool socks, colorful mittens, and cozy sweaters and have learned the necessity of layering our clothing in what we call “The Three Ws” in order to stay warm and dry:

  1. A Wicking layer
  2. A Warmth layer
  3. A Waterproof layer

Leibowitz goes on to share what those in Norway have learned.

Once you know how to dress for the weather, time outdoors is helpful. In Tromso, the saying goes “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Skiing—downhill or cross country, snow-shoeing, walking, skating, sledding, and hockey are just a sampling of things we can do to get our cheeks rosy and revved up!”

Finally, her research touches on the words Norwegians use to describe winter,

“we comment on nature’s beauty—this reinforces a positive mindset and attitude.”

As we head into winter, let’s tuck the tips from Tromso in our wicking, warmth, and waterproof layers and keep our mindsets positive!

Beyond our attitudes, winter brings other challenges. As the days get shorter and colder, it is natural to want to hibernate, become sedentary—and to “cultivate coziness”– as they do in Norway. Most of us can relate to these feelings—and find ourselves challenged by the salty, gooey, sugary snacks that make their way into the Teacher’s Lounge each day. But how can we avoid those snacks and have a healthy workplace and put teachers’ health first?

We asked teachers to coach us with their tips to stay healthy, avoid teacher burnout, and “outsmart winter and the Teacher’s Lounge.”

Here is what they said:

  • Eat breakfast-if you don’t have enough time to eat in the morning, get up a bit earlier, or make yourself a to-go breakfast snack or smoothie you can eat on the fly
  • Keep the junk out of the teachers’ lounge—in other words, don’t tempt yourself, or colleagues, with donuts and other sugar-filled snacks
  • If you want to bring a treat to work, make it a healthy one! (bagels, fruit, yogurt)
  • Make snow angels
  • Try a new exercise class
  • Keep a mini-cutting board at school (handy!) so you can cut up fruit or veggies during the day
  • Fill your water bottle every morning and do your best to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
  • Keep a few cans of soup, a bowl and a spoon in your drawer
  • Rearrange the art in your home
  • Light candles
  • Volunteer
  • Make new friends
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Cook over the weekend and bring leftovers—most things can be frozen
  • Bring a yoga mat and/or roller to school—use it during breaks or offer a yoga break in the teachers’ lounge or gym over lunch
  • Read
  • Help someone who is disabled
  • Go to a nursing home and visit the elderly or housebound
  • Shovel your own sidewalk, then shovel your neighbor’s
  • Instead of traditional chairs, try exercise balls, stand-up desks, or desks w/ foot swings—(and…exercise balls are quieter than chairs)
  • Take up photography
  • Focus on your spirituality
  • Start a walking, running, or biking club before school, over lunch, or after school
  • Encourage your school or district to join a local gym and find out about offering discounted memberships—keep in mind, many insurance companies reimburse fees if you go at least 12 times per month
  • Write
  • Learn to cook something new
  • Find a work-out buddy and make plans to meet during the week
  • Encourage movement in your classroom and ensure your lesson plans involve active learning
  • Go outside! Learn (or re-visit) skiing, skating, sledding, and snowperson making
  • Support physical education
  • Paint a picture or a room
  • In the spring, plant a garden—encourage students and/or faculty to care for the garden through the summer—and harvest the “fruits of your labor” in the fall

Dress for the weather.

Play outside.


Eat well.

Here’s to your health!


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