Why It's Important to Stay Active During the Winter Months
Physical exercise is extremely beneficial to both our physical and mental health. It helps us feel great physically and emotionally, and it improves our cognitive function so we can stay sharp.
When exercising outdoors, we also get the added benefit of boosting our vitamin D levels—a vitamin with physical and mental health benefits that can be absorbed through sunlight. And since our vitamin D levels tend to drop in the winter months, it’s crucial that we get as much of this vitamin as possible through food and getting outdoors during the day.
What Happens to Our Bodies When We're Sedentary
Humans, by nature, are not meant to be sedentary. We need regular exercise to stay healthy and fit, otherwise, we risk a myriad of both physical and mental health problems.
Along with the risk of weight gain, sluggishness, and diseases, a lack of exercise can affect our cognitive functioning and reduce our mental well-being. In other words, exercise keeps us physically fit, mentally sharp, and happier overall.
What Happens When We're Cooped Up Indoors in the Winter
Waking up when it’s dark out and leaving work when it’s dark out can be a real bummer. The shorter days in winter mean we rarely get a chance to bask in the sun. And many winter days have no sunlight at all. So, even when you do go outside, you may not have much – or any – time in the sweet sunshine.
Also, many people like to hibernate in the winter because it’s freezing cold. But if you stay cooped up indoors all winter long instead of getting out and enjoying the sunshine when you can, you certainly won’t get the exposure to sunlight that your body needs.
Sunlight lets our bodies know when it’s time to wake up and function. It influences our circadian rhythms (biological clocks), along with melatonin production—which influences our mood and sleep patterns. Sunlight also affects our serotonin levels—a neurotransmitter that has many biological functions but is best known for feelings of happiness and well-being.
So, without enough sunlight in our lives, we risk disrupting our circadian rhythms and the production of important biological chemicals and functions. As a result, many people end up feeling depressed in winter and experiencing winter-onset seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Symptoms of SAD include:
Lack of interest in activities you typically enjoy
Changes in appetite and weight
Feeling agitated or sluggish
Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless
If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to see your family doctor immediately. And consider getting out into the sunshine to combat these SAD symptoms.
For inspiration on ways to get out and have fun this winter—while taking care of your physical and mental health—read on.
Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
Whether you have kids, or you are a kid at heart, building a snowman is a fun activity for all ages. So, bundle up, and grab some carrots, rocks, sticks, and winter clothing you don’t mind leaving on the snowman.
Rolling and stacking giant snowballs is a great workout. And you can get swept away in your imagination—or your kid’s imagination—while enjoying this magical winter activity.
Skate the Day Away
Skating is a winter favourite. So, why not visit a local ice rink and strap on your skates? You don’t have to be good at it to reap its many benefits. Skating is an excellent workout for burning calories, working your glutes, toning your calves, and enjoying the beautiful winter days outdoors.
Hike a Mountain or a Trail
Many park trails are groomed for winter hiking. So, go for a walk or a hiking adventure in a snow-covered forest. Enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, and don’t forget to pack some snacks and drinks to keep you energized and hydrated.
Outdoor spas are a real treat in winter. You can relax and recharge in a hot tub while watching the snowfall around you. And you can get in that much-needed sunlight without freezing. You can either venture to a local outdoor spa resort or install a spa/hot tub in your backyard.
Whether you’re a pro or a novice, hitting the slopes is a rewarding way to spend a sunny winter day. A trip to the ski hill offers stunning winter views, some cardio exercise, and a fun experience with friends and family. What more could you want?
Tobogganing Your Heart Out
Like most fun winter activities, tobogganing isn’t only for kids. But if you do have kids, these activities are even better.
So, pack up your sled, saucer, snow tube, or toboggan and hit up a local hill—or build your own! Climbing up a snow hill over and over again is an excellent workout with an exciting reward—getting to slide down that hill again!
Build a Snow Fort or Igloo
There is no shortage of snow in winter. So, make use of this excess resource and start building! You can build an igloo or a snow fort with the help of your kids. Consider using sand pails and other moulds to sculpt the bricks of your new hideout. And reap the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and making memories outdoors with your favourite little people.
Make a Winter Bonfire
Bonfires aren’t just for summer! Stay warm while enjoying the outdoors with a winter bonfire. Bundle up, bring out some comfy chairs and blankets, and have a family picnic of roasted foods on an open fire. Think hot dogs, cocoa, and s’mores.
This Means War – Launch a Snowball Fight
Why build one snow fort when you can build two? A good old-fashioned snowball fight is even better when there are two fortresses to hide behind.
Break up into teams or have a free for all. Just make sure there are no ice chunks in the snow and that everyone is having fun and nobody is getting hurt.
Snow Graffiti (Painting on Snow)
Like you, arts and crafts don’t have to stay indoors all winter long. You can create snow paint to splash on snow and decorate your snowman and snow fort.
All you need are a few squirt bottles filled with water and some food colouring. Add four to five drops of colour to each bottle. And consider using the primary colours—red, yellow, and blue—so you and the kids can get creative when painting on the snow.
Get Your Cardio Up with a Jog/Cross Country Ski/Snowshoeing
Looking for a good workout in the snow? Go for a jog, hit a cross country ski trail, or try snowshoeing. These are all excellent cardio workouts that will keep you in good health and shape all winter long. And you’ll get to enjoy a scenic and peaceful winter wonderland while travelling through these wooded trails.
Catch Some Fish
Ice fishing is another rewarding winter activity that can be enjoyed solo or with the family. You will need an:
Ice rod and reel
Assorted ice jigs
A large bucket
A thermos filled with hot cocoa or cider
A lake that is solidly frozen over and at least 10 cm (4 inches) thick.
Check Out Your Local Outdoor Events and Activities
Research local outdoor events and activities happening in your area this winter. There is sure to be something you and the whole family can enjoy.
Bundle Up and Hang in a Hammock
One of the easiest ways to soak up the rays this winter and have a relaxing outdoor escape from cabin fever is by bundling up and enjoying a hang in your hammock. So, grab a sleeping bag, blankets, a book, and thermos, and enjoy the peaceful quiet of a sunny winter day outdoors in your favourite hammock.
Though the weather outside is frightful, the outdoors can still be delightful. Just bundle up, pack some warm drinks, and get moving. Before you know it, you’ll be toasty and having a blast in the snow. And the best part is you’ll keep your body and mind in good shape all winter long.