Why You Should Spend More Time Outdoors—Even in the Winter

Why You Should Spend More Time Outdoors—Even in the Winter

Even in the coldest months of the year, Mother Nature always has something beneficial for us. Being outside gives us serious benefits to our body and mind, regardless of weather.

Here are a few important reasons you should make a conscious effort to get outside in the winter, despite how cold or ‘blue’ it may seem.

A walk boosts creativity and concentration

Studies have proven a casual stroll outside can boost brain functions and mental focus. Standford University found that not only is the exercise good, walking promotes the free flow of ideas.

A similar study conducted by psychologists from the University of Utah and University of Kansas found backpackers scoring 50 percent higher on creativity tests, after spending four days in the wilderness, sans electronics.

Research has also found spending time outdoors improves your focus.

Going outdoors can improve mood

The ‘blues’ that seemingly come along with winter is a real condition. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the cause of reoccurring depression in 10 to 20 percent of women in the U.S.; researchers believe SAD is a result of shorter days in the winter. Reduced natural light is also a cause, which can be the result of avoiding winter’s bite.

The only cure for SAD is – as you might have guessed – going outside, snow or not.

More outdoors time, more Vitamin D

Soaking in natural light not only prevents SAD, but gives us vital vitamins via the sun’s rays. We can get a healthy dosage of Vitamin D courtesy of the sun, which helps ward off heart attacks, and may even improve conditions including osteoporosis and some types of cancer.

While we can obtain some Vitamin D from food sources like salmon and cheese, the sun is typically responsible for 80-90% of our intake.

The outdoors can revitalize your exercise regimen

One of the most difficult aspects of exercising is just getting to the gym or facility. And that becomes even more daunting with the winter winds and snow. But being outside gives runners a better workout, burns more calories for cyclists, and makes physical activity more enjoyable overall.

“The number one best part of going outside during winter is the solitude and space,” says Sarah Knapp, founder of OutdoorFest, a New York-based organization that encourages city dwellers to go outdoors. “The trails are significantly less crowded, a layer of snow quiets the world down, and when the trees lose their leaves, views are more expansive.”

Nature is healing

Natural light has healing powers. No, really. A study from the University of Pittsburgh revealed spinal surgery patients seeing lower levels of both pain and stress after being exposed to more natural sunlight.

Another study from the Journal of Aging Health in 2008, maintains the importance of getting outside as we age, too. Seventy-year-olds who spent time outdoors on a regular basis reported fewer bouts of pain, and had less trouble sleeping.

Essentially, spending time outside is healthy, and vital, at any point in your life.

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