By Gail Farmer, Director of Education
The temperature might be dropping, and the trees might be losing their leaves, but that doesn’t mean keeping up your exercise routine isn’t just as important.
Winter wellness walks have obvious benefits, but we found some more with a little research. In fact, it has been proven that winter walks may have surprising health benefits.
Benefit #1: Reduces Stress
Walking in the winter offers you a refreshing change of pace, says Alan Mikesky, PhD on Prevention.com, director of the human performance and biomechanics laboratory at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. The invigorating cold air can clear your mind and reduce stress, which can be helpful for weight loss.
Benefit #2: Keeps bones strong.
As Lynn Millar, PhD, a physical therapist and professor at Andrews University in Barrien Springs, Mich explains on Arthritis Today, any kind of sun exposure triggers vitamin D production in the skin, and bones need the “sunshine vitamin” to make the body absorb bone-strengthening calcium properly. Not getting outside during winter months slows down production and decreases the body’s store of vitamin D. “Vitamin D is important for keeping bones strong…because they have an increased risk of brittle bones,” says Millar. Going for a winter walk and getting 15 minutes of sun on your face and hands two to three times per week should suffice for getting enough sun for vitamin D production.
Benefit #3: Improves Mood
Sunlight and just being outdoors can do wonders for lifting your mood, says Millar. Just a simple walk in the woods with friends can not only be enjoyable, but also can have positive side effects on your mood and even decrease pain. A University of Washington in Seattle study of 112 women aged 19 to 78 shows that women who took a brisk, outdoor walk for 20 minutes daily had better mood, higher self-esteem and an improved sense of well-being at the end of the eight-week study. Winter walking could provide an effective, easy-to-stick-with therapy for mild-to-moderate depression, say the researchers, especially for those who experience side effects from prescription treatment options.
Benefit #4: Burns Calories
This one might seem a little obvious, and it is true that outdoor walking through the park or around the neighborhood on a cold day won’t burn any more calories than walking on a warm summer day, but walking in the snow will. “You expend more energy because it’s harder to move your feet in the snow, and you lift your legs a little higher,” Dr. Millar explains.
It might be cold outside, but clearly #WellnessWalks are a great idea.