I know, I know, it’s been a long, cold winter. Believe me, I get it. I’m a self-described “beach girl.” I don’t like the cold. It seems to get into my bones at the end of November and stay there until I begin to thaw in, let’s say, May. So, when it was suggested that I go skiing with my daughter during her break, I reluctantly said, “yes.”
Admittedly, I went kicking and screaming. Well, I gotta say, I had a blast!
Bundled in layers of clothes (what? no flip-flops?), taking the time to really be “in” my surrounding, I started to breathe and let go of everything else.
It was one of those billboard Aha! moments: Being active outdoors is essential for body, mind, and spirit.
In a nutshell, being outdoors with the sole purpose of being outdoors makes us happy … even in the winter, or perhaps, especially in the winter.
Here’s six reasons to head for the hills. Getting active outdoors is:
- Good for the body. Being active, from something as simple as taking a brisk walk, is good for your heart, boosts your immune system and keeps you physically fit. Regular outdoor activity provides a number of physical health benefits, including lower blood pressure, reduced arthritis pain, weight loss and lowered risk of diabetes, certain cancers, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
- Good for the mind. Outdoor excercise, even just going for a walk in a park, trumps indoor exercise. It’s a definite brain and mood booster! A 2011 study confirms that outdoor exercise is associated with greater decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression when compared to indoor activity, as reported by Science Daily. Research also demonstates that something as simple as visiting “green spaces” reduces stress and brain fatigue, writes Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times. It also sparks creativity, spiritual growth and an increased sense of exhilaration, adventure and challenge from life, explains Andrew Lepp, Ph.D, an assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism management at Kent State University.
- Raises your Vitamin D levels. When sunlight hits our skin, it begins a process that leads to the creation and activation of vitamin D. According to the Harvard Health Letter, research suggests that this vitamin fights osteoporosis, cancer, depression and heart attacks.
- Connects you to other people. Whether you are skiing down the slopes or go hiking with a naturalist you have the opportunity to bond with other people that enjoy the same activity.
- Makes you more productive at work. As I wrote in the article, How To Get More Done Every Day? Take A Break, getting outdoors and leaving work behind, even for a short time, boosts productivity, improves cognitive function, helps prioritize what’s important, and may even help solve problems. Dr. Lepp of Kent State also reports that people who regularly participate in outdoor recreation tend to be more productive at work.
- Connects you to the earth. Dr. Lepp also points out that being in the great outdoors raises environmental awareness and possibly increases involvement in environmental issues. At the very least it expands your focus as a reminder that there is a whole world out there besides the one you’ve created for yourself day-in and day-out.
So what are you waiting for? Plan a day trip. Your body and mind will thank you. And, frankly, it sure beats moaning about the weather.