The winter months can seemingly drag on with the frigid temperatures and increased hours of darkness. There’s a reason that many animals hibernate during the winter months and it’s natural for us to want to do the same.
As much as you’d prefer to stay cozy and warm indoors, there are plenty of fun ways to get outside and beat the winter blues. Getting outdoors during the winter can be beneficial to your physical and mental health and here are five reasons why.
Boost Your Immune System Naturally
Wintertime is notably cold and flu season, largely because we spend more time indoors, trapped in a sea of bacteria and viruses. Getting outdoors and engaging in physical activity helps boost the immune system by flushing out bacteria from the lungs and airways.
Exercising outdoors can also help reduce the severity and longevity of cold and flu symptoms, especially if you get outside regularly and at the first signs of feeling sick.
It Can Boost Your Energy
It’s natural for our energy levels and mood to deplete during the winter months, due to the lack of light, decreased levels of Vitamin D, and increased hours without sunlight. Getting outdoors, even for a short walk in the morning once the sun is up can make a big difference in your energy levels for the remainder of the day.
If you live somewhere too far north to absorb sufficient levels of Vitamin D (be sure to check where you live because it’s not as far north as you might think! Those who live in the Pacific Northwest cannot get enough Vitamin D in the winter) then be sure to talk to your doctor about Vitamin D supplements.
It’s Good for Mental Health
Spending more time indoors and in darkness can deplete serotonin levels, again due to decreased intake of Vitamin D. Serotonin is known as the “feel-good” chemical because it helps regulate mood and contributes to one’s well-being and while low levels alone are not enough to cause depression, they can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD symptoms include sleeping longer, changes in appetite and cravings for foods high in carbohydrates, weight gain, and feeling tired all the time. Even getting outside for a short walk can boost your energy and help alleviate symptoms of seasonal depression.
It’ll Keep you Active
Being less active in the winter is common, even among active people, however there are plenty of fun winter activities to keep you moving and burning off all those holiday meals and treats. Getting outside is the hardest part, but once you step out the door and start moving, you’ll be glad that you did. If you need some motivation, join a running group, find a buddy to help keep you accountable, or sign up for a spring race to force you to train, even when the weather is at its worst.
An added benefit of staying active throughout the winter months is that it can help boost your mood and stave off the winter blues.
Exercising and spending time in nature in general is shown to reduce stress levels. With the combination of holiday stress, shorter days, and a desire to spend more time indoors, getting outside to exercise daily can be an effective method of managing stress.
The lack of sunlight can also throw off our Circadian rhythm, which can result in longer hours sleeping and feeling more irritable. When we exercise, blood is pumped to our brain which increases the release of neurochemicals which decreases the release of the chemicals that release stress.