As the temperature drops and winter sets in, a lot of us are inclined to hibernate indoors and forgo our regular exercise routines. However, embracing the chill and engaging in outdoor physical activities during winter can provide numerous benefits for both our physical and mental well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the advantages of exercising outdoors in winter and why it is a great idea to bundle up and brave the cold.
- Boosts Vitamin D Levels: Exposing ourselves to sunlight is essential for maintaining optimal vitamin D levels. During winter, when the days are shorter and sunlight is limited, exercising outdoors can help combat vitamin D deficiency. According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, spending time outside in natural light during winter can significantly enhance vitamin D synthesis in the body, thereby promoting better bone health, immune function, and overall well-being.
- Increases Caloric Burn: Cold weather can actually work in our favor when it comes to burning calories. Our bodies work harder to stay warm in chilly conditions, leading to an increase in calorie expenditure. Outdoor activities such as running, skiing, or even brisk walking in the winter can be more demanding on our bodies compared to the same activities in milder temperatures. According to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, exercising in the cold can boost metabolic rate, aiding in weight management and improving cardiovascular fitness.
- Enhances Mood and Reduces Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Symptoms: Winter is notorious for its association with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs during certain seasons, typically in winter. Exercising outdoors exposes us to natural light and stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of happiness and well-being. In fact, a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that individuals who engaged in outdoor exercise experienced greater reductions in depression symptoms compared to those who exercised indoors.
- Provides Variety and Adventure: Exercising outdoors in winter allows for a change of scenery and opens up new opportunities for activities. From cross-country skiing and ice skating to snowshoeing and winter hiking, the options are plentiful. These activities not only provide physical challenges but also allow individuals to explore and appreciate the beauty of nature during the winter season. The novelty and excitement of trying out different winter activities can help break the monotony of indoor workouts, making exercise more enjoyable and motivating.
- Builds Mental Resilience: Exercising outdoors in winter requires mental fortitude and discipline. Overcoming the initial resistance to stepping outside and enduring the discomfort of the cold can foster mental resilience and determination. Engaging in physical activity despite the weather conditions can instill a sense of accomplishment and boost self-confidence. The mental strength developed through winter workouts can carry over into other aspects of life, helping individuals overcome challenges and adversity.
Winter should not be a reason to abandon outdoor exercise routines. On the contrary, it presents an opportunity to experience unique benefits and discover new activities. Exercising outdoors during winter can boost vitamin D levels, increase calorie burn, improve mood, provide adventure, and build mental resilience. So, bundle up, embrace the chill, and enjoy the countless rewards of staying active in the great outdoors this winter.
- Kimlin, M.G. (2012). Geographic location and vitamin D synthesis. Molecular Aspects of Medicine, 29(6), 453-461.
- Church, T.S. et al. (2010). Cold exposure increases energy expenditure without inducing shivering. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42(2), 357-364.
- Cooney, G.M. et al. (2013). Exercise for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (9), CD004366.
- Calogiuri, G. et al. (2019). Exercise in natural environments: Effects on physical and mental health outcomes. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(21), 4065.
- Kwan, M.Y. et al. (2019). Exploring the impact of outdoor walking group participation on depression and psychological well-being: A mixed-methods study. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 29(4), 602-614.