Summer time vacations are almost over. Labor Day has come and gone and people will be traveling to New York for the Fall and Winter seasons. A few travelers will find New York warm. Most visitors will find the weather cooler. They will be going from short sleeves to long sleeves and sweaters.
A major controversy exists about whether climate and weather has an effect on the way we feel. Weather and seasons can make us feel better or worse.
A study was completed to investigate the effect of weather on arthritis. Joint pain is not related to humidity, wind speed, or amount of sunlight. The majority of the effect of weather on symptoms is related to barometric pressure when it changes to a lower level. Falling barometric pressure occurs when it is going to rain. That is why some individuals think that rain is the cause of their pain, but it really is the lower barometric pressure that causes swelling in our tissues (think about putting your shoes back on after an airplane ride at lower barometric pressure).
A change in season also has a physical effect on how we feel. During the summer, our metabolism is set to lose heat. We move more easily. Warming up to exercise takes a shorter period of time since our circulation is already revved up to maximize blood flow to our skin and muscles.
When we experience cooler temperatures, our bodies notice the difference. Instead of trying to lose heat, our body tries to conserve heat. In colder temperatures, blood flow is differentially sent to the center of the body at the expense of the arms and
legs. It takes a longer time to warm up. Exercise done too intensively, too quickly, can end up causing injuries in these cooler temperatures.
Cold temperatures seem to intensify musculoskeletal pain. How does this occur? When we injure a part of our body, we tend to rub it. The rubbing sensation travels to the brain faster than the pain signals. Cold tends to slow the nerve fibers with the fastest speeds. Those fibers are the ones that send position sensations to the brain. Pain fibers are slow fibers and are affected less by the cold temperatures. More pain signals get through to the brain. That is why the same amount of injury can seem more intense in the cold Fall and Winter months than in Spring or Summer.
Recognizing these weather effects can get you ready to enjoy trips to cooler temperatures. Warming up for a few more minutes can get blood flow to muscles that you will use during exercise. This may mean a few more minutes on the treadmill, the elliptical machine, the stationary bicycle, or the aerobic machine of choice. Once warmed up, you will be ready to go.