SAD? Movement helps rid the winter blues

Katerina Wren (center) & Nicholas Corin (right) of Friday Harbor Holistic Health both recognize the importance of movement for optimal health.

It’s nine a.m. on a blustery winter morning and San Juan Island Fitness is buzzing with activity.

The placid blue of the saltwater pool is rippled as swimmers cut through the liquid while doing laps. The weight training room is spotted with muscles, clad in sweaty spandex . Upstairs is a space for classes, where the aerobics goers patiently wait for a spin class to stop pedaling.

When the aerobics class concludes, the yogis are next in line.

“A good workout program is going to make the winter go by a lot faster,” said Paul Hopkins, owner of the fitness center. “Having physical goals makes this time of year a lot more palatable, and physical activity helps with self-esteem and confidence.”

Hopkins said people are more likely to stick to a routine if they work out with a buddy or a class, as that creates a sense of reliability.

The winter blues

With the onset of winter comes shorter days and colder temperatures. Not only do relentless clouds hang above Friday Harbor this time of year, but that same gray matter, figuratively speaking, can seem to linger above your own atmosphere, precipitating the infamous “winter blues.”

Seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression, is a real thing. King County reports that four to six people out of 100 experience the disorder prevalently, while 10 to 20 percent of people experience milder forms of the winter blues.

Throw in the flu and cold season, and both mental and physical health can deteriorate this time of year.

Health from the inside out

Nicholas Corin of Friday Harbor Holistic Health advocates nutrition along with movement to maintain mental and physical health.

Cutting out processed foods and replacing them with healthier options is key, although it may take some getting used to.

“Once a habit sets in it’s hard to break it. You need to exercise endurance,” he said. “You might not like the taste of flaxseed oil, but you can acquire a taste for it.”

Having a healthy gut prevents both infection and depression, Corin said. He recommends probiotics, like those in organic plain yogurt and cottage cheese, and eating fermented foods like sauerkraut and kim chi.

Balancing the cold outside by cultivating warmth inside is also important. Fresh ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper keep immune cells happy and warm. Corin recommends cooking with these ingredients and squeezing them into tea.

As far as vitamin supplements go, it’s common knowledge that vitamin D is a good one to take during the darker months. However vitamin D cannot be properly absorbed or activated without sufficient magnesium levels. Corin suggests a topical application of magnesium, which is available in lotion form, to aid absorption.

While known for its effects in boosting immunity, vitamin C is also important for mental health. It can help lift moods and dispel toxins from the body.

“When toxins reach a certain level we become more depressed and susceptible to infection,” Corin said.

If taken in plant form, the concentration of the nutrient is higher. Corin suggests the plant Camu Camu, a cherry-sized berry native to the Amazonian lowlands of South America.

If you are going to take it in supplement form, he said it needs to be more than just ascorbic acid, must be buffered, and taken at the right time of the day. He recommends professional consultation to get the most out of your supplement regimen.

However, no matter how healthy your diet is, it must be combined with movement in order to be effective.

“If you move, even with an imperfect diet, the nutrients will go to the right spots,” Corin said. “It’s better than having a perfect diet and sitting in front of a computer.”

Get moving

addasdaKaterina Wren, Friday Harbor Holistic Health’s yoga instructor, has been teaching yoga for 20 years. She teaches classes at XYZ Movement Arts Studio at Airport Center in Friday Harbor. She offers basic yoga Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30-6:45 p.m., intensive yoga Saturdays, 9-11 a.m., and an all-level vinyasa yoga class on Sundays, 9-10:15 a.m.

XYZ Studio offers many other classes, including yoga, dance and tai-chi. Visit their website at for a full list.

The Holistic Health center also offers a donation-based chi-gong class, Tuesdays, 8-9 a.m. at Brickworks.

SJI Fitness offers spin, aerobics, yoga classes and more for nominal drop-in fees. Classes are included if you are a member; membership fees range from $54-$69 per month. Visit for class schedules.