Cold weather blues? Don’t underestimate the validity of this concept! Cold weather, and winter in general, can contribute to depression, seasonal affective disorder and mental health overall. But take heart; research shows that winter can be beneficial if you can make yourself brave the cold for some outdoor exercise.
Exercise increases levels of the hormone “endorphins” that make you feel happy, and exercising in the crisp, fresh air boosts endorphin production further.
Research published in Women’s Health Magazine (February 2014) affirms that cold-weather workouts can “amp energy, burn more calories, and improve your mood.” No need to suit up for downhill slalom skiing… a brisk walk is just as effective in reducing tension, exposing the body to natural light, and increasing energy.
Follow these guidelines to help your body adapt to the colder temperatures and enjoy a cold weather workout for better health:
- Be sure to warm up muscles with stretching indoors prior to winter activity.
- Wear wool and polyester rather than cotton that absorbs sweat and makes you feel colder.
- Dress in layers so you can adjust your wardrobe as you increase and decrease your activity.
- Plan your route ahead of time and investigate for ice patches or unsafe footing to avoid injury.
- Acclimate your body to the cold by starting slowly and allow for a longer cool down period before going back into a heated area.
If you are unable to do extensive exercise, try outdoor alternatives such as light gardening clearing out dead summer foliage; taking your laundry outside to fold; or hand-waxing your car.
Don your mittens and scarves… the cool air and sunshine are waiting for you!