Get Outside this Winter: Fun ways to stay active in the colder months
Benefits of Getting Outdoors
Our indoor environments are increasingly filled with screens that encourage us to be sedentary. It is that much easier to be a couch potato when the temperatures start dropping outdoors. According to the Environment Protection Act, Americans spend roughly 87% of their time indoors (Smith, 2019)! That number likely increases for many during the winter season. Spending time outdoors, even without exercise, has been shown to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Yet, engaging in exercise has shown numerous benefits to our mental and physical health. Countless studies have shown physical activity leads to improvements in sleep, bone and muscle development, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, self-esteem, patience, focus, and balance. Engaging in exercise also releases endorphins, a “feel good” neurotransmitter in our brain that has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and symptoms of PTSD. The best part is that physical activity does not have to be difficult or strenuous in order to be effective. Sports and other physical activities can be considered as a complement to recovery and management for individuals with disabilities. Additionally, the heart has to work harder in colder months, which means less exercise is needed for the same benefits. So, go solo, grab a friend (at a safe distance!), or take the whole family and get outdoors!
Remember, you don’t have to be good at the sport to get the benefits! These downhill activities will definitely strengthen A LOT of muscles and improve your balance and flexibility, aerobic capacity, and bone density, all of which decrease as you age. Other improvements include visual acuity, self-esteem and confidence, and mood. If done with others, you’ll also experience the benefits of socialization, a factor that contributes to overall wellbeing. If going downhill makes you nervous, try cross-country skiing, known to be one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise!
Snowshoeing is an affordable way to explore snowy trails or discover new territory. Snowshoes are made of lightweight aluminum and have versatile binding systems, increasing their lifetime longevity. Snowshoeing for 30 minutes has been shown to improve cardiovascular endurance and contribute to weight loss; snowshoeing burns more calories than walking or running at an equal distance! During a 30-minute session, the average woman can burn roughly 375 calories, while men can burn around 500. Want more of a challenge? Try running in snowshoes! No snowshoes? Stick to a trail and take a hike
Sledding is a great way to enjoy winter for people of all ages and abilities. It’s no surprise that children today spend only 4-7 minutes outside, much less time than the daily recommendation of one hour, and the least of any previous generation. Engaging in a family activity, such as sledding, can help everyone included stay active, increase bonding, and may even make you feel like a kid again! Engaging in a group activity can help combat symptoms of PTSD, including isolation, and improve overall mood and emotional health. You’ll also be getting the benefits of physical activity as you walk back up the hill to slide down again. As with any exercise, you’ll feel happier and healthier thanks to increased blood flow and those wonderful endorphins.
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