At the onset of cold weather, my first instinct is to curl up with some tea and a nice warm blanket. It isn’t long though before I start to feel the cabin fever setting in — the itch to go out and do something, anything, to get out of the house.
There are many benefits to outdoor recreation, especially in the winter when we might feel even less inclined to step foot outside. Some of the reasons you might want to bundle up include:
Boosted Attention and Creativity: Several of my coworkers here at the SWCD take daily walks at lunch time and it might just make them the most productive in the office (but don’t tell them I said that). Research shows that walking outside for as few as five minutes can help “reset” your brain and improve your productivity, even after you go back inside.
Improved Mood: You may have heard about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a disorder that is now thought to be responsible for those famous “winter blues.” SAD is believed to be caused by a decrease in exposure to natural light. One of the simplest treatments to help improve SAD’s symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and tiredness is to spend more time outside.
Better Relationships: All too often I find myself sitting with my husband on the couch in silence, mindlessly scrolling through our phones after a long day. When we are constantly surrounded by technology it can be hard to slow down and connect with those we love. As a couple, we try to set aside at least one day a week to take a hike together to give us time to talk about our lives and no phones allowed.
Greater Absorption of Vitamin D: In addition to helping with SAD, natural sunlight is also an important source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D has mood-boosting properties, aids in the absorption of Calcium, and can stop bones from becoming brittle. Vitamin D can be found in foods such as fish and fortified milk, but we get as much as 80 to 90 percent of our daily needs from the sun. Vitamin D requirements are highest for those over 70, so don’t think that you get out of needing vitamins just because your body is finished growing.
Benefits for Kids and Dogs: On those days when I’m not quite feeling up to it, my main motivation for getting outdoors is my faithful dog, Maya. Once I see that look of pure joy on her face as she gallops through the snowy woods, it doesn’t feel quite that cold anymore. Both dogs and kids can get easily bored when stuck inside for too long and physical activity can help burn off some steam as well as provide important mental stimulation. For children, playing in the snow also helps develop gross motor and problem solving skills.
Finding a place to spend some time outdoors can be as simple as heading out to your own yard but if that isn’t an option, there are plenty locations in Delaware County that can help you get your nature fix. Take a trip to a nearby village, township, or city park or try one of the 11 Preservation Parks of Delaware County, two of which include sledding hills.
Columbus and Franklin County Metroparks are also a good nearby option; my personal favorite is Glacier Ridge for its paved and dog-friendly trails. Delaware County is also home to Alum Creek and Delaware State Parks with picture-perfect waterfront views that take on a whole new look when frozen-over in the winter.
To find park locations or see scheduled winter programming, visit www.preservationparks.com or www.metroparks.net. You also can visit us on Facebook.
Reach Rebecca Longsmith, resource conservationist, at [email protected]