Are you at risk for Premature Hibernation?

Have you heard about Premature Hibernation? Perhaps you’ve seen the public service announcement above that has (fittingly) gone viral.

You may be wondering: how can I protect myself? How can I protect my family?

Quite simply, by knowing the facts.

Premature Hibernation (PH) is a seasonal condition that is experienced by many Canadians in the fall. As an early reaction to the oncoming winter, people with PH purposely stay indoors and insulate themselves with fabrics like wool and flannel. The problem is, they’re acting like it’s winter before the season has actually arrived.

PH is a relatively new phenomenon that is only beginning to be fully understood. In fact, when surveyed, four out of five epidemiologists had never heard of it. The one that had, Dr. Russell Leeves*, is also the spokesperson for the newly formed Canadian Research Association for Premature Hibernation*.

“Gratuitous pre-season flannel layering is no laughing matter,” says Dr. Leeves. “It’s as if some Canadians are taking the presence of pumpkin-flavoured beverages and cinnamon-infused baked goods as a signal that they should huddle inside and not do anything.”

Dr. Leeves and his team have been studying this potential pandemic and carefully analyzing the data. While their report has not yet been quoted in well-established medical journals like the Lancet, it has appeared in the slightly lesser-known Journal of Sitting Less and Moving More.

“I can summarize the findings in two words,” says Dr. Leeves. “Get outside.” He also notes that all the research points to the ParticipACTION 150 Play List as an effective antidote to PH. In a recent press conference, he announced that the Play List, with its 150 uniquely Canadian activities, “is like a multi-vitamin specifically designed to counteract PH.”

A dedicated task force with representatives from all provinces and territories examined the Play List and found many relevant activities that can offset the negative and sedentary effects of PH. These were grouped into two subsets: “classic” and “routine”.

In the “classic” category, Canadians can partake in popular heart-pumping activities such as cycling (#2), running (#80) and hiking (#150). There are also wheeled options such as rollerblading (#92) and scootering (#109). Throwing a baseball (#77) or football (#110) with a friend is always a great choice.

However, Dr. Leeves wants to remind Canadians that daily “routine” activities also have a legitimate place on the Play List, and an important role to play in PH prevention.

“These are the things you might be doing regularly, like walking your dog or cleaning up the yard,” Dr. Leeves notes. “These types of lighter activities should remain part of your routine during all seasons.” Dog-walking is number 87 on the list, along with walking in general (#19). Every step counts, whether it’s strolling to school with your kids or travelling to work on foot from a transit stop. Other fall-friendly Play List recommendations include raking leaves (#145), chopping wood (#57) and mowing the lawn (#102).

So, before you disappear under a polar fleece blanket with built-in sleeves, consider the facts about PH. Instead of adopting a winter mindset, get outside to enjoy the sights, sounds and colours of fall. Enthusiasm is infectious, so recruit family, friends and co-workers to join you. Together, we can put an end to premature hibernation.

*Names have been changed – or in this case, made up completely.