Many people experience the blues this time of year. Winter’s minimal daylight can make it difficult to get outside. Add bone-chilling temps to the mix and finding the motivation to venture outdoors is a real challenge. But taking a brisk stroll on a regular basis is an easy way to cash in on physical and mental health benefits. Give winter walking for wellness a try and turn this chilly season into one of energy, enthusiasm, and enjoyment.

Winter Walking Benefits

Walking is often undervalued as a form of exercise. During any season, this simple, low-impact activity is beneficial to the mind and body. Among other advantages, walking helps to strengthen bones, muscles, and your immune system; improve endurance and cardiovascular fitness; reduce stress; and boost mood, memory, and coordination.

Taking a winter trek supplements these benefits even further. Sure, it’s much colder outside, but that’s part of the deal. Winter walking reinforces wellness by helping you:

  • Fall asleep faster and sleep better. Your body temperature decreases during sleep. Going for a winter walk allows your body to cool down faster, making it easier for you to fall and stay asleep.
  • Burn more calories. Colder temps, like the ones we experience in these frigid Minnesota winters, make the body work harder to stay warm. As such, you burn more calories when it’s cold, especially when exercising in cold weather. One study proved that hiking in the cold burns 34% more calories than hiking under regular weather conditions.
  • Be more productive. Research has shown that people are often more focused and make better decisions in cooler temps. So, taking a brisk winter walk can help improve memory, attention, and productivity.
  • Reduce stress by breathing fresh air and soaking up sunlight. Being outdoors – even in the winter – increases endorphins and serotonin levels, which has a calming effect that naturally helps boost your mood.

Make It a Habit

While it can be a struggle to get and stay active when all you want to do is hibernate, a winter walking routine can keep you on track.

Make It a Part of Your Schedule

One of the biggest decisions to make is what time of day to venture out into the cold. If you’re an early riser, maybe a morning walk is best. Perhaps you want to wait until the sun comes up, the temperature rises just a bit, or the wind (if any) dies down. You may even want to wrap up your workday with a walk outside to catch a sunset or relax your mind. Whatever time works best for your schedule is the perfect time for a winter walk.

Start with a Stretch

Before heading out on your walk, make sure to get your body warmed up. Stretching will help loosen joints and increase blood flow to your muscles, which can also help reduce the chance of injury.

Listen to Something You Like

Make your chilly stroll a little warmer by listening to music you love, an interesting podcast, or a good audio book while you walk. Having a simple distraction can help keep your mind off shivering and keep you entertained. What’s more, listening to music has a calming effect. Or listening to a book allows your imagination to thrive. Save these special diversions for your winter walks to keep yourself motivated.

Include a Friend

Inviting a friend or neighbor to walk with you is a good way to stay social, active, and accountable. If you have someone else checking in, you’re more likely to stay the course and keep up with your winter walks. If you’re unable to make in-person walks happen, try keeping up with friends and family with a Fitbit® tracker or an online walking group. Share your successes with others and help encourage them, too.

Stay Warm and Dry

When you have the right equipment to stay warm and dry, you’re more likely to enjoy your winter walking for wellness experience. The whole idea is to improve your overall well-being, and that starts with the basics.

Heading out, you want to feel a bit of a chill but not cold. During your walk, you should feel warm but not hot. Dressing correctly makes a world of difference, and we have tips to help you gear up so you can get out – and revitalize.

Layer Up

By wearing multiple layers, you’re able to adjust as needed to stay comfortable. Your base layer should be a wicking material that pulls sweat from your body to keep you dry. On top of that, try an insulating layer of fleece for warmth. Your outer layer should be waterproof and wind-resistant but breathable. This will keep you protected from the elements while allowing sweat to escape.

On Your Feet

Keep your toes warm and dry with socks made from wool or other synthetic materials. These fabrics work well because they help wick away moisture and continue to insulate even if they get wet.

And treat yourself to a solid pair of trail shoes or hiking boots. Look for footwear with good, chunky traction and multi-layered materials designed to keep feet warm. If you need additional grip, consider products, like Yaktrax®, that slip over your shoes and provide more stability on slippery surfaces.

Head and Hands

Don’t forget to top off your attire with a sturdy stocking cap. And choose a pair of gloves or mittens that fit well and keep your hands dry. Look for something windproof and moisture-resistant so your skin doesn’t become wet, cold, and irritated.

Cover Your Neck and Face

Also, keeping your neck and face covered with a scarf, gaiter, or mask can help prevent the bite of cold winter air.

Chase Your Winter Wellness

Once you’ve got the drive, a routine, and your gear, you’re all set to conquer the great wintry outdoors. Get out into the fresh – albeit chilly – air and clear your head to help you refocus and relax. You may be surprised at how invigorating it can be to experience winter walking for wellness – and how much better you feel after each brisk journey.

If you still have questions or would like more advice on ways to stay physically and mentally fit during the winter months, the trained professionals at The Calli Institute can help. Reach out to us today and begin to uncover a healthier, happier you.

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