When the days get cold, and the sunlight wanes, it’s tempting to plan activities involving bundling up inside under cozy blankets. Believe it or not, it’s also the perfect time to plan outdoor adventures! Winter landscapes provide an excellent backdrop for everything from casual family nature walks to competitive sporting events. You may also notice that being outside helps your mind and body feel rejuvenated during these long months. If you’re eager to head outdoors, here are 10 reasons to make it a regular part of your winter plans.
Combat the Seasonal Blues
Many people experience bouts of seasonal depression during the winter months. With fewer daylight hours and colder temperatures, our bodies sometimes have trouble naturally regulating moods and sleep schedules. Researchers estimate that severe cases, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), affect about 1 in 20 people. Many more can experience milder “winter blues.” One of the best ways to combat this change in mood? Head outside! Sunlight, and its associated vitamin D, can help regulate your circadian rhythm and leave you feeling more present and alert during the day. Even if you live somewhere snowy, the natural light and fresh air will work wonders for your mood.
Make the Most of Your Workout
Regular exercise is key to overall wellness—and that doesn’t change in the winter. Rather than spending more time inside, head outside and exercise in nature. Research shows that exercising outdoors can even impact mental and physical health more than working out inside. You’ll feel reinvigorated on even the coldest day after a brisk walk around the park or a cross-country skiing trip.
Visit Popular Spots…Without the Crowds!
Many outdoor locations, especially hiking trails, are most popular in the warmer months. Take advantage of the colder weather and head to the spots that are usually too crowded to enjoy! Even if the natural landmarks have changed a bit, the area is popular for a reason—look for the hidden gems. Many outdoor areas also offer reduced usage fees during the winter, making it even easier to access local resources.
Explore Winter’s Flora and Fauna
Not everything hibernates in the winter! Despite the cold, many plants and animals thrive during this season. Take the opportunity to get outside and learn about flora and fauna of winter. You’ll notice that some animals have changed their habits or diets. Some plants have changed their appearance. New species might now be visible with the layers of dense leaves gone. Take a pair of binoculars and explore!
Enjoy Winter Sports
With or without snow, there are dozens of winter sports to try as an athlete or spectator this season. Head to the mountains for skiing, snowboarding, and sledding, or stay in town for ice skating and hockey. Many lakes offer ice fishing rentals for novice and seasoned enthusiasts alike. Feeling adventurous? Try winter camping; with the right gear, you’ll be plenty warm, and you’ll get to enjoy the forest from an entirely new perspective.
Strengthen Your Immune System
Getting outside can do wonders for your immune system, even when it’s cold. Winter is cold and flu season for several reasons, including the fact that we usually spend more time indoors sharing germs! Head to the great outdoors to escape the recirculated air in your living room. Fresh air is excellent for your health. In addition, being outside can actively support a strong immune system. Studies have linked time spent outdoors with more robust immune systems and better overall health. Combining vitamin D from sunlight and organic compounds in the air and dirt can help your immune system thrive.
Are you eager to spend time with friends and family but don’t want to share germs? Head outside! The air circulation and room to spread out will make it less likely that you pass along an unwanted cold. Sharing time outdoors can be a crucial way to connect with others and maintain relationships in the community, especially if you meet in a local park or shared green space.
Have an Excuse for Some Hot Chocolate
Cozying up by a fire, roasting marshmallows, and drinking hot chocolate —sounds like the perfect winter evening! You’ll enjoy this scene even more if you spend the afternoon outside in the chilly air. Have a snowball fight, go ice skating, or take a winter hike to earn that deliciously warm cup of hot cocoa when you return home. If you can’t wait for home, pack a thermos to take on your outdoor adventures.
Try a New Hobby
Even if winter sports aren’t for you, you can appreciate plenty of outdoor hobbies during the winter months. Take up bird watching and observe the migratory species in your area; you won’t get to see them when the weather warms up! Nature photography is another fun option. Winter is the best time for black-and-white photos highlighting the stark contrasts of nature’s beauty.
Reduce Family Stress
Sharing a small indoor space with the same people day after day can exacerbate stress and minor disagreements. If your family needs a little quality time, head outside! Studies show that even 20 minutes in nature can reduce stress—making outdoor time a regular habit is even better!
Whether you’re heading outside alone or with a group of loved ones, winter is the perfect time to enjoy all that nature (still) has to offer.
This content is brought to you by Metroparks. One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The Metroparks are open 365 days a year and encompass 25,000 acres of nature and recreational facilities. Each year more than 1.5 million people engage with the Metroparks to enjoy amenities such as picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, disc golf, cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and a diversity of outdoor programs and special events. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history, and the environment. Learn more at Metroparks.com.