Most winter days, cozying up on the couch with a cup of tea and the remote sounds like a solid plan, particularly now that the Winter Olympics are live on TV almost around the clock. A better plan, though, is getting some of that post-competition, rosy-cheeked glow for yourself. Exercising outdoors in the cold, crisp air is exhilarating. Perhaps even more important, it offers a host of physical benefits anyone can enjoy.
The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise in Winter
Exercising outside can burn more calories. That's because your body requires energy to not only sustain your movement as you exercise, but also keep your core temperature up in cold conditions. Taking your workout outdoors during the winter can boost your health in multiple ways:
Strengthens Your Immune System
Move over treadmill. Outdoor winter activities do more than get your blood pumping. Exercising outside, and soaking up sunlight, helps your body make vitamin D, an essential nutrient your body needs to fight off germs. Research also suggests that exercising during the winter can reduce your chance of catching a cold or the flu. That's because exercise increases your blood circulation and may flush bacteria out of your lungs and airways.
Makes You Happier
Feeling the winter blues? Exercise is a natural mood booster. Intense physical activity causes your body to release endorphins, the brain's feel-good chemicals. And, when you do it outside you get an extra pick-me-up from the sun, which can alleviate mild depression or seasonal affective disorder.
Prevents Winter Weight Gain
It's common to gain weight in the winter with holiday feasts, cold-weather cravings for comfort food and the urge to hibernate inside until the weather warms up. But when spring comes, you'll be desperate to get the winter weight off before swimsuit season begins.
By exercising throughout the dark and dreary months, you keep your body in tip-top shape and avoid packing on the pounds.
Ideas for Outdoor Winter Activities
Get inspired by the winter games and head to an ice-skating rink or pull out your sled. Other outdoor activities you can do include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat-tire biking (bicycles with large tires made for riding in the snow).
Local and state parks like Pokagon State Park in Angola, Indiana, Indiana Dunes State Park and Swallow Cliff Forest Preserve in Illinois often offer snow sport rentals and facilities. You can also check out your city or county's websites for activities near you.
Cold Weather Gear for Protection
Exercising outdoors during the winter takes a little bit of preparation to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Be sure to wear the proper clothing, which includes:
- Moisture-wicking bottom layer
- Insulating second layer
- Protective top layer
- Warm hat
- Waterproof shoes and thick socks
- Sunglasses or goggles
You may also want to apply sunscreen and lip balm to protect your skin from the elements, and take a water bottle with you to stay hydrated. Read more about cold-weather exercise tips to make sure you're ready for winter activities. Or, check out five more tips to keep your spirits up for winter workouts. Then, grab a friend and head outdoors.