In the bitter cold weather of the winter, it can be more difficult to find the motivation to stay active. It gets darker earlier, the wind can be bone-chilling and the sidewalks can become difficult to navigate. However, it is important that we don’t hibernate through the next few colder months and keep our bodies moving.
Research has shown that exercising helps with sleep, energy levels, and mood, along with numerous physical benefits (1, 2). The winter may just mean switching up your routine: take your exercise indoors, start an aquatic program, or brave the weather and take a nature walk in the snow.
There are many great ways to continue to stay active outdoors through the winter, and you’ll likely find that trail systems are less busy than fitness centres at this time of the year. Many
communities maintain parts of municipal trail systems and parks, allowing you to walk, snowshoe or cross-country ski through these areas. Once you get the hang of that, take your winter activity to greater distances on the many trails that expand far beyond the city. There are many snowmobile trails that are also maintained outside of cities that allow you a greater distance for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. In these areas, be aware of your surroundings, and ensure that you bring liquids to stay hydrated. Check with your local recreation committee, athletic centre or municipal office for group winter activities.
There are a few things to remember before venturing outdoors:
- Dress warmly, and for the weather. A toque, mittens or gloves, as well as a scarf all provide protection from the harsher elements.
- Dress in layers. Start with a base layer, made of synthetic or wool materials (which are best for ensuring that the body stays warm and dry by wicking sweat and moisture away from the body), add a middle layer and then a weatherproof outer layer.
- Invest in a good pair of winter boots. Look for a pair that has an aggressive sole for traction, or a Vibram outsole which can prevent slipping on icy surfaces. If you wear orthotics, many winter boots offer removable insoles that make it easy to ensure you are getting the support you require while participating in outdoor activities.
- Check the weather before you go. Be aware of changing conditions.
- Stay hydrated. Just because you’re not sweating in the summer sun, doesn’t mean your body forgot it needs water. If you are anticipating a longer journey, ensure you also have supplies with you (snacks, room-temperature liquids) and a phone in case of an emergency.
- Always let someone know where you are going. Whether it’s walking to the market, a park or a longer journey, it’s important that someone knows where you have headed.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen! We often overlook this key detail in our winter activities, but the sun can be more potent as it reflects off the snow.
As with any exercise routine, it is important that you speak with your family doctor before partaking in a new exercise program or before continuing your current program in the snow. People with diabetes or vascular impairments must pay extra attention to their hands and their feet to ensure that they are protected from the elements. For more information on winter footwear or if you have any other questions, contact us (the SoleScience team) at anytime.
1. Weir, K. (2011, December). The exercise effect. Retrieved December 20, 2016 from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx
2. Penedo, F. J., & Dahn, J. R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: A review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 18(2), 189-193. doi: 10.1097/00001504-200503000-00013