Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Why Snowstorms May Be Good For Your Health

It is 4 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon in February, and I’m sitting in a chair with a laptop computer warming my thighs like an obedient lapdog. I’m swaddled in a cozy bathrobe. My feet are toasty warm inside slippers as I sip hot tea with honey. I’ve raised the blinds on the windows, and as I watch the wet snow swirling sideways in a chaotic display of white, I can’t help feeling giddy that work was cancelled today. I have an overall sense of unproductive euphoria as the gears and pistons of capitalism freeze over. Could blizzards be good for health?

On a normal day I would be 30-40 minutes late seeing patients by now. I would have a dull headache from concentrating all day on hundreds of problems, symptoms, and questions, and my blood pressure would be about 135/84, pulse 89.  But the white flakes of water drifting on the winds seem weightless, elemental, and self-sufficient. They certainly have no interest in me as I enjoy their infinite procession. I estimate my blood pressure is 108/72, pulse 61.

For breakfast I would normally swallow a bowl of carbohydrates in milk in less than 3 minutes while collecting my things for work. I would be swilling down too-hot coffee laced with stimulants as it burns the roof of my mouth. Despite a quick spike in my blood’s glycemic index, I’d be feeling shaky and hypoglycemic within a few hours. But this morning I ate a whole wheat bagel spread with brie and tomato, took the time to carve up a grapefruit, and sipped green tea with real honey as I talked with my wife for the first time in days at the kitchen table. This was around noon, as I had slept in like a bear. I haven’t felt shaky all day.

I’d certainly feel accomplishment at the end of a work day at the office. I’d have sorted through abstract ideas and tried to solve problems all day. But shortly I’ll be going outside to shovel snow. Exercise. This physical exertion will undoubtedly give me a more tangible sense of accomplishment, with fatigued muscles aching with pleasure as I warm up again beneath a hot shower. I don’t think it’s romantic or clichéd to state that physical labor is more real labor. The visible piles of snow I will have created are much less nuanced an accomplishment than the piles of tests and prescriptions I would have otherwise generated today.  I’ve been able to speak to those patients who needed urgent advice on the telephone, and I hope the rest who haven’t paged me can safely wait until tomorrow.

Normally I get home late. My back hurts as I labor over dinner preparations. I fill my stomach with good food, but it is usually too close to bedtime. The glass of wine or beer with dinner relaxes my lower esophageal sphincter tone as well as my mind, but when coupled with a supine sleeping position surely creates damaging acid reflux. This may one day lead to esophagitis, if not ulcers and even cancer. But tonight I will have time to execute a meal like the French, to eat it slowly and deliberately, and to give my stomach the gravity and time it needs to move all that tastiness safely into my small intestines.

And finally the blizzard has created the necessary preconditions for snuggling in bed. I am confident that few other human activities are more regenerative, restorative, and preventative than snuggling someone you love under multiple bedcovers in a freezing house. This is the main reason blizzards may be good for health.

As I drift off to sleep, I’ll be acutely aware of the pleasures of shelter, of not being cold to the bone and miserably soaked. My fingers will not ache with frozen blueness, and I am not an animal huddled and exposed.

If you are in the snow I hope you also received some benefit today.  At the very least I hope you get a day off from work soon. It’s good for you.

*This blog post was originally published at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »