As the colder weather and holidays approach, it’s tempting to hunker down, get comfy, and grab some hot cocoa and snacks for a long winter’s hibernation indoors.
Wow, that does sound nice – and it definitely has its place. But in the long run, we feel so much better if we can get outdoors and exercise, even when it’s chilly out. Below are some reasons to help motivate us to get some fresh air, sunshine, and Vitamin D all winter long.
Reasons to Get Outdoors and Exercise
While outside and exposed to sunlight, our vitamin D production is enhanced, which is beneficial for healthy bones and our overall well-being. This is so important during the winter months when we’re often exposed to more people, germs, and colds.
Exercising outdoors in a park or forest can lower our cortisol, pulse rate, and blood pressure. Studies have found that being in nature can have a calming and beneficial effect.
It can become almost a spiritual practice to help reduce stress which can be especially important during the busy holiday season.
Another study found that even our mood can improve when exercising outdoors, contributing to our overall happiness. Exercise produces endorphins which also make us feel better and can decrease our anxiety levels.
Here are some tips to help get you outside.
Make a Plan to Get Outdoors
The first important step involves making the mind shift to get outdoors and exercise even when it’s a bit cooler. With the colder weather, it’s important to tell ourselves we can still get out there. As tempting as it is to stay indoors, where it’s warm and cozy all winter, we cannot succumb.
Many people living in cold-weather countries spend a great deal of time outdoors as part of their normal routine. While visiting Canada a few years back, I had been so impressed by people of all ages walking and biking in just about any weather.
One person I met said it was even common to hike the waterfalls once they were frozen! Their normal routine is not greatly impacted by the chilly weather.
Although the weather may not often permit daily walks outside, there are weather windows and opportunities available, so plan to seize them.
While I was working in the Northeast, I’d often walk outdoors at lunchtime at least three times a week all year. I found this time very helpful to my overall mood and stress levels.
Making the mind shift to get outdoors in the winter is half the battle. Plan to make outdoor exercise your new norm all year long.
Find an Enjoyable Outdoor Activity
Finding an outdoor activity that you enjoy can make all the difference. Walking is a perfect outdoor exercise, and the cold weather will encourage a faster pace to keep warm – an added benefit. Hiking during the colder weather is another way to generate heat, enjoy nature, and get a fabulous workout.
I love to bike ride. Even when living in the Northeast, I still tried to prolong that sport as long as possible in the cold weather. With proper clothing and conditions, I would ride well into the winter months. However, once the snow started, even though others continued, I was pretty much done until March or April.
During the snowy months a few years ago, I discovered snowshoeing. I had never realized how aerobic that sport can be. It’s fairly inexpensive to pick up a pair of snowshoes, and it can be practiced almost anywhere.
I would snowshoe in my backyard and at a nearby school park where the snow was quite beautiful, and it was very quiet and peaceful. Another favorite winter sport had been cross-country skiing which is also very aerobic.
There’s such a wonderful array of cold-weather sports clothing available. The newer fabrics and designs are light-weight, colorful and warm, and dry quickly. There are jackets and layers for almost any type of weather. I like to start with a base layer and then go from there.
Now might be the perfect time to add a few gift items to your holiday wish list. During the winter, the bright colors and stylish designs can also be a motivating factor to help get us out there.
Note: Only venture outside when the weather conditions permit as icy conditions can be dangerous. Whatever the activity, be sure to hydrate, dress appropriately for the weather, and stay safe.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
What are your plans to stay active and outdoors this season? Have you tried any new winter outdoor activities? Is your area conducive to outdoor exercise? Please join the conversation and share your favorite winter exercise routine.