Ever hang your stockings by the chimney with care, only to wish you could take them down and stick your toes in them? If your feet often feel cold — or if your bedmate lets out a yelp every time you climb beneath the covers — it might mean nothing more than you need a new pair of slippers for Christmas. But chronic cold feet (and cold hands) can also be a sign that you need to make some lifestyle changes. For example:
Relax more: When you’re under stress, the body pushes blood toward your core and away from your extremities. (That’s why we say someone who is losing their nerve is getting “cold feet.”) Colds and flus, work or family issues — they can all ratchet up our stress and cause footsicles.
SOLUTION: Take it as a sign that you need a little exercise, a nice cup of tea and repeated viewings of A Christmas Story.
Get off your butt: Do you sit at a desk all day and fail to get much on-your-feet time during off hours? Sitting for prolonged periods can reduce circulation to your lower extremities, as well as having a number of other negative health impacts. “We found that working to reduce sitting throughout the day improved physical function, more so than increasing formal exercise to the recommended 150 minutes per week," says Bethany Barone Gibbs, assistant professor, Department of Human and Physical Activity, University of Pittsburgh.
SOLUTION: If you can’t walk it off, and a standing desk isn’t an option, at least make it a habit when you sit to adjust your posture, stretching or moving feet and legs frequently. A 2015 study found that sitting with your legs crossed interferes with blood flow volume to a far greater degree than sitting with both feet on the floor.
Quit puffing: Nicotine can make it harder for blood to reach all the body parts. Studies have shown that by making it harder for blood to reach fingers and toes, smoking lowers the temperatures of the extremities and can even put you at greater risk for frostbite.