Most people recognize the benefits of regular exercise, and recent university studies have found that working out in nature leads to greater emotional well being and better sleep then exercising indoors, but during the colder months the weather becomes an easy excuse to justify breaking the good fitness habits we have carefully built up over time. The days are shorter and the weather is cooler, but with a little preparation and planning there is no reason not to keep up a regular exercise plan that incorporates the unique opportunities and challenges of the winter season.
Activities like hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and downhill skiing all burn hundreds of calories per hour even with moderate effort. Plus there are also potential mental rewards for getting outside and exercising on a crisp winter day. For example, increasing your exposure to sunlight may help fend off seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a type of depression linked to the change in seasons, but as with many thing the first big step of motivating to get off the couch is the key.
Preparation starts with selecting the proper clothing from top to bottom. As always a good hat or helmet keeps much of the body’s heat from escaping, and at the same time a synthetic or wool-synthetic blend base layer (no cotton) will wick moister away the body, thus preventing chill. Next, a middle layer of wool or fleece will act as insulation along with wool-synthetic blend socks for the feet. A final outer layer combination of a a breathable outer shell made of a wind- and water-resistant material along with the appropriate footwear completes a layered combination of clothing that will keep you warm, dry and comfortable in the great outdoors.
Next, protect your exposed skin with with a good sunscreen and guard your eyes against the glare with sunglasses or goggles. These risks are often overlooked in winter workouts. Another commonly overlooked issue is the need for proper hydration because most people experience less thirst when it’s cold, but they actually have a greater need for liquids since when the body warms cold, inhaled air it creates water vapor that is released when you exhale.
While going for a walk in the park after a snow storm is a healthy, stress-reducing experience the winter season offers us many other options. For many people the pure exhilarating thrill of carving down a freshly-groomed run on a well-tuned snowboard or a pair of skis is hard to beat, but there are many other options for those who choose to move at a more relaxed pace. For example, a peaceful day in the woods on a lightweight pair of cross country ski is not only a great workout, but also a great way to escape from civilization, even if it is only for a few hours and as they say, if you can walk you can snowshoe and with snowshoes you can go almost anywhere, no matter how deep the snow.
So it’s up to you this winter- pick your pace, pick your gear, pick your activity, and get outside! The Dodge Ridge Sport Shop is currently open seven days a week from 10a to 4:30a and it’s fully stocked with top-of-the-line gear for almost any winter activity and once the snow returns the Dodge Ridge Demo Center will offer snowshoes, cross country, telemark and alpine skis starting at 8a. CLICK HERE for a map map of the Pinecrest Nordic Ski Area. The winter is still young, so now is the time for you to plan for your next adventure!