The days get shorter. The temperatures drop. The snow covers the streets. Welcome to winter. Upon its arrival, many outdoor enthusiasts rush to hot and crowded gyms. However, something seems amiss. Where’s the fresh air, where’s the scenery, where’s the love? Without negating the fitness benefits of indoor workouts, outdoor winter exercise has some unique benefits.
Seeing the Light about Outdoor Winter Exercise
During winter, reduced exposure to sunlight causes some people to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD. Fortunately, outdoor winter exercise can be the perfect solution. The healing rays of natural sunlight generate vitamin D, which prevents osteoporosis, breast cancer, prostate cancer, psoriasis, and depression. Since cold weather keeps us indoors during the winter; many of us suffer from vitamin D deficiency. This contributes to SAD, which can be alleviated by outdoor winter workouts.
But that’s not all. Winter fitness activities involve weight bearing exercises on unpredictable surfaces. This type of program can:
*Enhance Balance and Coordination
Actress Virginia Madsen would agree. Suffering from a severe case of postpartum depression, she felt that she was pessimistic about future prospects. Then, she was asked to participate in a celebrity ski event.
Although she didn’t ski, the organizers assigned two attractive instructors to coach her. In the middle of the race, she suffered an unfortunate fall. At first, she was discouraged; then she got up and finished the race. For the next few days, Madsen practiced from the moment the lifts opened until they closed. When one of her instructors saw her looking down from the top of a Black Diamond run, he told her that if she could learn to ski it, she could walk into any audition with confidence. When she got home, she decided that if she could “hurl herself down the mountain” she could “hurl herself back into life.”
If balance, coordination and confidence don’t inspire you, consider the fat burning benefits of winter fitness.
Burning Fat with Outdoor Winter Exercise
When the cold air hits your skin, your brain calls your adrenal glands into action. This causes them to release high quantities of a hormone known as adrenaline. The increased adrenaline forces your fat cells to push large amounts of fat into your blood stream, where it can be easily metabolized by your muscles. Some studies even show that
cold weather exercise gets rid of the deep fat that surrounds your internal organs. This is the fat that can cause heart disease and other health problems.
Let’s explore the different forms of winter exercise.
Snowshoe enthusiasts tell us “if you can walk, you can snowshoe.” It can burn over 1000 calories per hour, making it an excellent form of winter fitness.
Depending on your weight, the intensity of your skiing, and whether or not you choose to ski hills, cross country skiing may burn between 400 and 1400 calories per hour. Since cross-country skiing involves a simultaneous use of the arms and legs, many exercise physiologists consider it to be one of the best forms of aerobic exercise.
Very few sports can provide that same sort of thrill, excitement and challenge you can experience through downhill skiing. While the learning curve might be steep, mastering the required skills is deeply satisfying.
Snowboarding is a sport that was once in the exclusive domain of the younger generation.
However, in recent years, it has begun to gain popularity with the over 40 crowd. Some even claim that it is easier on the knees. Many love the soft, comfy boots, which are a welcome relief from the stiff plastic boots worn by alpine skiers.
Winter Running and Hiking
New types of add-ons can be put on your running shoes to prevent slippage on ice.
Your choice of winter outdoor exercise will be determined by the following factors:
*What you like to do
*How much money you’d like to spend
*How much you want to travel
Once you’ve made a decision, be sure to dress according to the needs of your activity. For example, skiing and snowboarding will require additional layers of clothing, whereas Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, running and cross country skiing will require less.
For skiing and snowboarding, be sure to take a lesson with a qualified instructor.
Don’t let winter doldrums destroy your workouts. Come into the light, and take your program outside.