Exercise outdoors during winter months

Written by Baiba Šustere

Baiba Sustere Diamond Hill

We live indoors

How much time do you spend outdoors? Make a guess.

Studies show that on average in North America and Europe a person spends 90% of their life indoors.

Let’s break this down a bit more to make it applicable to day-to-day life. There are 24 hours in a day, of this on average a person will spend only 2 hours outdoors. This may not sound too bad, especially when you consider that around 8 hours of this indoor life you spend sleeping.

So, let’s tease this out a bit more. When we hit the age of 30, we have spent 27 years indoors. When we look at it this way, it seems intuitive and obvious that we should spend more time outdoors.

 

Out of rythm

The seasons of Autumn and Winter are the time of the year when one might more prominently notice the symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). This is directly affected by the shorter and darker days. We wake up during the dark, go to work, commute back home during the dark, without seeing or enjoying sunlight sometimes for days on end. SAD is linked with the disruption of natural sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythms during the winter months.

To calibrate our circadian clock, we need exposure to sunlight, which in return will improve our sleep quality and improve our overall mental wellbeing. A lack of exposure to natural sunlight can create havoc of our internal clock, which can disturb our eating and sleeping patterns, negatively impact our mood and increase stress levels.

 

120 minutes outdoors per week

There are plenty of benefits in exercising outdoors throughout the year, however it is essential to keep exercising outdoors during winter months. This helps the body regulate its circadian clock, gives a boost of self-esteem, lowers stress levels, and improves overall mental wellbeing.

From the physical side, exercising outdoors during the winter months equally improves the immune system and can help to fend off seasonal flu and colds, lowers blood pressure, and it allows the lungs to enjoy fresh air. Even short periods outdoors can improve mental and physical wellbeing.

To reap these benefits, it is enough to spend 120 minutes a week in contact with nature. As little as 20 minutes each day.

 

How to get motivation

When motivation levels are low, focus on the great feelings that you feel after a workout - the boost of energy that arrives when you smash that session in rain and cold. Draw on these feelings and let them fill you up and be your motivation for the next movement session outside.

Don’t limit your exercises, experiment! This might be a year to try wild swimming. To move from roads to trail runs or vice versa. Try to use your surroundings as your workout equipment - benches, trees, walls. Or join a local parkrun group. The options are endless.

To improve your physical and mental wellbeing during the winter months by exercising outdoors, find your motivation. Prepare for the exercise accordingly with appropriate clothing (don’t forget your hat and gloves) and head out the door.

And after this simple act follows a multitude of benefits for the mind and body, as well as nature. As we spend more time outdoors, we also feel inclined to protect these green and wild spaces around us.

 

Have fun and enjoy!

Your Baiba

 

About the author: Baiba is a meditation and forest therapy facilitator, writer, runner and creator of Run to Plant Trees initiative. www.baibasustere.com

 

Baiba Sustere Silverstand