Light therapy to help rid winter blues

January 27, 2012 1:56:56 PM PST
It's the new fitness class designed to help you beat the winter blues.

It's called "lighten up", offered at the New York Sports Club in Manhattan at 86th and Lexington avenue.

Created by exercise physiologist Dr. Martica Heaner, the class starts with 30 minutes of energy boosting cardio. Then there's 20 minutes of stretching and meditation combined with light therapy

"It's meant to not only lighten you up in terms of body weight and fat but also lighten your mood," said Dr. Heaner.

The high intensity dance moves and the music get the heart pumping and the endorphins flowing, exercise alone has been proven to improve symptoms of depression. The bright light therapy or photo therapy is a treatment to fight the winter blues is a mild version of what's technically called seasonal affective disorder.

It's not completely proven but it's thought that light therapy changes neurotransmitters in the brain suppresses melatonin which is a depressant and boosts serotonin which is a feel good chemical.

"I was a little nervous at first I thought it would be hot or something but it wasn't at all it was cooling and relaxing," said Meg McInerney.

You have to leave your eyes open for it to work, so the reach can reach the retina or back of your eye but don't stare at the box.

"We don't look directly into the light we look around it and have kind of a fuzzy half gaze," adds Dr. Heaner.

And although anyone can buy a light box without a prescription, you should check with your doctor first if you have bipolar disorder, if you're taking medications that cause light sensitivity, or if you have a known eye condition like macular degeneration.

Dr Heaner hopes you leave the class feeling good.

The class is only offered at the New York Sports Club at 86th and Lex, and it's free to member and non-members until the end of February.


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