05 May 2021
Don't miss out on the winter sun
James Russell reminds us of the importance of catching some winter rays, and reflecting on how we can keep ourselves fit and healthy as the bad weather and long nights draw in.
I think there’s a strange truth in the life of a farm vet in that we never get to go outside in the good weather! As soon as the sun comes out, farmers jump in their tractors and it all becomes about plate measurements, sugar contents and everyone’s favourite job – sheeting up! I made the mistake just once of arriving on a farm at the right time to help cover the clamp. The number of tyres I threw on was…lots.
The winter-time challenge
The onset of winter and bad weather means that, for a number of ambulatory vets, we are entering a prolonged period of being exceptionally busy. This might be the TB tests which have waited until the whole herd is at home, the sick animal challenges as the diets of some animals who have been grazing all summer don’t quite hit the mark (I blame the tyre lobber), or just the run of the mill work which happens all year. In practice, this always felt to me like the time to settle oneself and prepare for a period which was going to be pretty full on, right through to the other side of lambing.
This challenge of seeing daylight may also be felt by colleagues in small animal clinics, labs, universities or any other setting at this time. This is especially true this year as many workforces find themselves under additional pressures due to the impact of the various lockdown restrictions we’ve been through.
It’s a regular challenge to get to see enough of that watery white thing in the sky during these months. Now more than ever, and in 2020 more than any other year, it’s crucial that we tackle this challenge. A lack of sunlight can make us feel more tired, and the reduced incentive to exercise can impact our physical wellbeing. Even just getting out for a walk during our lunch break could make a big difference. We need to be more than the person who wakes up to go to work in the dark and comes home in the dark.
I find it sobering to reflect that a number of us finish the winter with a degree of vitamin D deficiency. This is not helped by the fact that UK sunlight doesn't contain enough UVB radiation in winter for our skin to make vitamin D, even when we do get out. So during these darker months, it’s even more important for us to make the most of those lunch breaks by eating well.
One of the challenges for many of us I recognise is finding the motivation to stay active. Somehow, sticking the running shoes on to head off into the sleet can be less appealing than jogging effortlessly through a summers evening. But try to focus on the positives, and think about the health benefits it can bring. For me, there are other benefits to be had with less pollen, fewer insects, and those clear and crisp nights where sound travels forever, but maybe that’s not your bag, and that’s fine.
I would suggest we all take this opportunity to reflect just for a moment on how we intend to remain healthy, fit and active this winter, especially when indoor exercise might be limited? Just don’t forget your headtorch and high vis!
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