While people may wish to hunker down in winter, science suggests that there are great health benefits to getting outdoors in winter. Here are some reasons why it’s worth exploring all that a Wisconsin winter has to offer outdoors as well as how to do it safely.
The Health Benefits of Being Outside
Many studies have praised the benefits of being outside in nature. Exposure to the outdoors can reduce stress, promote healing, and increase a sense of well-being. One reason this is accomplished is because it increases your levels of Vitamin D, sometimes known as the “sunshine” vitamin, which people often lack during this season. Getting out in the sun is important to helping maintain a healthy level of this beneficial vitamin, which can promote calcium absorption, help immune function, and reduce inflammation. In addition, breathing in the fresh crisp air can energize and improve brain function.
It’s also good to get outside to maintain a healthy outlook. Sunlight increases levels or serotonin in the brain, which can be good for a healthy mood. Circadian rhythms are also affected by sunlight, so getting outside can improve your sleep patterns. In addition to being healthy, being outside in winter can be fun when you find new things to do!
What to do Outdoors
There are many outdoor activities to consider, such as hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, playing in snow, or just a simple walk in nature. All of these will have a positive impact on your overall health this winter season. When making the choice to go outside, motivate yourself by trying something new. The Center offers many programs that invite you to explore the outdoors in interesting and fun ways.
One program is forest bathing. It’s a great form of nature therapy for adults, combining the studies of meditation and mindfulness with the benefits of the natural world. For families, a winter scavenger hunt is a great way to engage children with the amazing natural world around them. Look for signs of active animals such as squirrels, deer, or even coyotes. Families can also take advantage of winter programs such as geocaching or guided nature walks.
Walking Outside is a Safe Exercise
A simple winter hike goes a long way toward providing beneficial exercise while enlivening your spirits, too. This safe and socially distant activity can be enjoyed by people of all ages. There is always a new adventure among our 185 acres of forest, prairie, pond, and lakeshore.
Going out in nature during this season does require a little more preparation. Wearing thermal layers and adequate winter gear is the best way to ensure your time outdoors is a positive experience. Consider wearing insulated boots, wool socks, and snow pants along with many layers of clothing. A good hat will keep the cold out, as will a good pair of mittens or gloves. Our Nature Store offers hand warmers, mittens, hats, and Yak Traks for sale to help you better enjoy those cold and icy winter hikes.
If you’re interested in learning more about health and being outdoors, consider joining our Schlitz Audubon Nature Book Club on Facebook. Beginning Wednesday, February 17, we will discuss The Nature Fix by Florence Williams, in which she explores how the powers of the natural world improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and strengthen our relationships.