Weather or Not – Health Benefits of Moving to a Warmer Climate

Apologies to Will…

One of the main reasons for people moving to Portugal is the health benefits of living in a warmer climate. As ‘Her Outdoors’ and I (Sundance) both suffer from different forms of arthritis, ailments and mood swings (I’m a self confessed SAD sufferer!) it was certainly a major factor in our decision to move here.

And what lovely weather we have had, up to mid February that is, when the first significant rain fell. At the time I was considering changing Angela’s nickname from ‘Her Outoors’ to ‘Raindancer’. (Mmm, Sundance and Raindancer, think we’ve got all bases covered there…)  As a gardener she was delighted when the rain did come.

So is there evidence of health benefits to be derived from living in a warmer (usually) climate, or are they just part of the Estate Agent’s hype? Personally, I have been fitter, more active and healthier since we moved to Portugal. However, these last three cold, wet months have had a negative effect on my health.  I’ve felt lethargic, more joint pain and been prone to changing moods. I wanted to know whether it was because of the weather, so here’s my take on my limited Google research.

One of the main benefits of a warmer climate is the increased exposure to the sun, which increases your body’s vitamin D levels. Vitamin D has been claimed to prevent cancer, provide higher energy levels, and keep your bones strong and healthy by helping your body absorb calcium.

Some of the comments I came across were; “Pain thresholds drop in colder weather”,  “cold, rainy days affect mood, “during colder weather people are less likely to be outside and get the exercise that normally helps keep arthritis pain in check.

A warmer climate will probably make you more motivated to exercise, or maybe just give you more get up and go! Motivation to exercise is certainly the case for me as I’ve taken up the Portuguese Triathlon; I swim in the pool most days, check the fridge to ensure I haven’t run out of beers and cycle to the local Bar when I have!

Joking aside, I have taken up playing football again. Or to be more specific, walking football (WF). The game is becoming increasingly popular with the over 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s both here in Portugal and  in the UK and! But here’s where the health benefits might be questionable, on a personal level. Since I started playing WF I’ve suffered: groin strains, a ruptured achilles tendon, a muscle tear and strained knee ligaments. But I keep playing. I clearly have a liking for pain, or maybe I just like to keep active!

We do lead a more active, outdoor life these days, largely due to the garden we are maintaining and developing. Any exercise is seen to be beneficial and apparently, improves memory and might even reduce the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. It does this by increasing the necessary blood and oxygen the brain needs to function, which in turn create new, healthy cells. You just have to remember to get out in the garden each day!

Thinking of moving to a warmer climate?  My advice would be to do what works for you, but don’t just rely on the sunshine!