Get Outdoors!

December 2, 2013

snowy streetRenew. Rebuild. Recover. A blog from West Michigan Community Mental Health. 

When the dark hours lengthen, the temperatures drop, and the snow flies, maintaining a healthy exercise regimen can be tough.  Exercising indoors at home or in a gym are great options.  However, many athletes report that a strictly indoor winter routine leaves them feeling like something is lacking.

There may be scientific evidence to prove that they’re right.  A few small studies show that people receive greater mental health benefits from outdoor exercise than from indoor exercise.

Specifically, the studies looked at the benefits of exercising in outdoor green spaces.  Unfortunately, December through March yield little “green space” in Mason County.  But there’s still something to be said, according to common wisdom anyway, for the mental health-boosting powers of fresh air and daylight.  Even when the ground is covered in white stuff.

Snowshoeing, skiing and the like are excellent ways to work out in the winter.  Adapting your summertime activities, such as walking or running, may require some planning.  If you’re hitting the streets during a December day’s 10-plus hours of darkness, wear a reflective vest.  Brightly colored outerwear is a good idea in the daylight, especially when visibility is decreased by falling snow.  If you’re walking or running, invest in a traction system for your footwear.  A quick internet search will yield dozens of ready-to-use options.  For you MacGyver types, research the “screw shoe.”  Hint: it involves power tools.

It goes without saying that you’re going to need warm clothes.  If you’re new at outdoor winter exercise, you may need to experiment to find a wardrobe that keeps you warm but not too warm.  Lastly, if you go out alone, please inform someone of the route you plan to take and when you expect to be home.  If you live alone, arrange to call or text a friend when you are safely home.  Take a cell phone with you too.  Stay safe and enjoy the outdoors!

Renew.  Rebuild. Recover. is brought to you by West Michigan Community Mental Health.


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