Walks in a winter wonderland can, at times, be even more enjoyable than working out at the gym or exercising in your own home — especially during COVID.
For many people, the dark months of winter conjure up negative feelings. This includes feelings of being cooped up indoors, affected by reduced sunlight contributing to SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and even being overtaken with fear and apprehension of going outdoors because of the cold. But this can be addressed with the right mindset. There is beauty and purpose for every one of the four seasons — particularly of winter.
One of the best ways to keep a New Year’s Resolution that focuses on improving your body, mind, and spirit is to take more winter walks. There is so much beauty in nature. Also, the exercise of walking can improve your mood, relieve stress, increase your heart rate, and give you the needed fresh air and space. You can quite literally take one positive step after another to boost your mood, physicality, and spirit. Here are some reasons to take a walk in the winter.
1.) Trees and Nature
The trees and all of nature take on a different beauty in the winter. Deciduous trees that lose their leaves demonstrate more prominently their trunks, limbs, and beautiful silhouetted shapes in the winter. Evergreen trees on the other hand remind one of Christmas trees throughout the entire season. This is the perfect time to learn and identify the different kinds of evergreens as well: spruce, pine, and fir all have their unique attributes. You may even detect and recognize mathematical patterns better in nature in the winter, such as patterns in branches, tree bark, or in cascading ivy leaves.
Certain dried flowers whose seeds are left for the birds take on interesting shapes highlighting their own cores. For instance, dried echinacea plants have a beautiful cone shape on top, like the Duomo or a mosque. Dried cones of Staghorn sumac look like red candles, signaling hope for those who view. Certain trees, shrubs, and vines keep some of their berries in the winter months. They are not only beautiful to gander at but also provide needed food for birds. During a walk, one could quickly sketch or snap photos of roadside dried foliage to further appreciate the beauty.
All of nature looks even more peaceful and glorious with a blanket of fresh snow upon it. It has been said by an anonymous source that the only great way to enjoy the beauty of the snow and experience it fully, is to also endure the cold. The manner in which the snow rests upon a deciduous tree versus an evergreen is quite interesting when they are juxtaposed. The way in which the stark white snow covers the berries can be quite breathtaking as well. But when walking, also be mindful of possible slippery ice patches.
You may catch a glimpse of a rabbit, deer, or squirrel on your walk and observe how they use their environment to gather food or shelter. The overall looks of winter when you go for a walk can really be quite serene and meditative.
We all know that exercise is great for maintaining your weight, getting your heart pumping, and the adrenalin working. But did you know according to the American Journal of Human Biology, people can burn 34% more calories walking in the colder months? This is because of the snow, wind, and cold forcing our bodies to work harder. Exercising in the winter requires more energy. Recall, it is recommended that we get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise every week.
During a walk, one can try different speeds and times to achieve various outcomes. Sometimes one may wish to be extra careful with slippery spots or many inches of snow. Also, exercise releases chemicals called endorphins which can contribute to a positive and energizing outlook. Nobel Prize-winning French author, Albert Camus, once stated: “In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
Sometimes listening to headphones while walking gives an entirely different perspective of one’s surroundings. Favorite winter songs to walk to for some include, “A Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon and Garfunkel, “Wintersong” by Sarah McLachlan, and “Winter Wonderland” by the Eurythmics. But one can search on Spotify for more winter-themed music.
When outdoors, there are no confines of four walls around you. Looking up at the sky, even in the winter, can make the surroundings feel limitless. Many people are telecommuting from home or are online students due to COVID. There is no better recipe for feeling free from one’s computer and house than to go for a brisk walk. Upon looking upwards, studying the cloud formations can soothe the soul. Sometimes the sky can seem low and the clouds welcoming. There is always a different path to take instead of following the same route. Sometimes when the sun is out and not a cloud in the sky, it can beam so that it feels as though one is basking, or even sunbathing, for a moment.
5.) Fresh Air
Breathing fresh, open-air deeply, and exhaling deliberately can do wonders for the lungs and be invigorating. The cold air does not have to be something to fear, rather the cold can be cleansing and awakening, and even clear the mind. Winter walks can emphasize the importance of the season of silence, rest, calm, and restoration. Winter comes right after the months where we have witnessed the glorious explosion of leaf color from the fall. Now with many bare trees, plants dormant, animals hibernating or migrating, everything looks a little different. As we walk, we can mediate about winter and its call to restore and be deliberate in our pace and peace.