When the weather takes a turn for the worst, it’s only natural to want to hibernate inside. Though the urge to stay snuggled up on the sofa may be strong, it can actually be much better for your mental and physical health to wrap up warm and get outside.
Connecting with nature can help to manage your mood, boost your immunity and reduce social isolation. Getting outside also gives your body a break from indoor air and can have lots of additional benefits:
It can help to lift your mood
Natural daylight can help lift your serotonin levels. This is your body’s feel-good chemical and levels can be much lower in the winter months. Going outside, even when the light levels are lower, can increase positive mood, alertness and energy levels. And as the sun rises later, it means that the colder months are the perfect time to grab the golden hour without having to get up too early! A sunrise walk is a great way to start a winter day. All it takes are a few extra layers, some sensible footwear and you’re all set.
You’ll get a healthy dose of vitamin D
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Our body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin when we’re outdoors so if the sun is shining, try getting outside at some point in the day. This can also help ward off seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression and anxiety because sunshine naturally increases serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood.
Walking outside has additional benefits
Exercise of any kind signals your body to release endorphins, which improve mood and trigger positive feelings in the body. Research has shown that going on regular walks improves your nervous system, leading to decreased levels of anger and hostility. Walking outdoors is even more beneficial: studies have shown that being in nature reduces tension and depression.
Walking also improves fitness, cardiac health, alleviates fatigue, creates less stress on joints and reduces pain, can prevent weight gain, reduces risk for cancer and chronic disease, improves endurance, circulation and posture.
It may improve your immune system
One Japanese study measured the ability of forest bathing. This is a healing practice in Japan where treatment involves a walk in the forest and aims to integrate and harmonise humans with their surroundings. Researchers found that forest bathing decreased stress hormones and increased intracellular anti-cancer proteins. So if you can, why not head out to your nearest wood and immerse yourself in nature. Try and actively engage with all your senses. Listen to birdsong, smell wildflowers or simply watch the breeze in the trees.
How to stay warm on winter walks
"There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes." This phrase hails from Scandinavia, where it's a common mantra repeated by parents who insist that their children spend time outdoors every day as it’s good for them. Here are some top tips for keeping warm in the great outdoors.
1. Dress in Layers. Wear several layers of clothing and peel them off if you get too warm.
2. Stay Dry. Nothing chills you like wet skin. Cosyfeet’s 100% waterproof footwear for men and women is perfect for tackling the cold and rain. It’s also breathable and windproof to ensure your feet stay warm and dry, however bad the weather gets. Choose from Moose, Minnie and Maisie for women or Stanley and Livingstone for men.
3. Keep your head, neck, hands and feet toasty. Your extremities let off the most heat—so keep them wrapped with warm scarves, hats, mittens or gloves and thick socks. For the ultimate winter sock, try Cosyfeet’s Thermal Softhold® Seam-free Knee High Socks. These knee high socks will keep you toasty from your knees to your toes. Or if you prefer to wear hosiery, take a look at Cosyfeet’s Softhold® Warm Ribbed Tights. They’re knitted from SUPPLEX®, a clever fibre that keeps legs warm but still lets skin breathe. And for the ultimate in winter warmth, why not try adding a pair of Luxury CosyCushion™ Sheepskin Insoles to your boots, shoes or wellies. These genuine, sheepskin fleece insoles are cleverly combined with a shock-absorbing, cushioning material for the ultimate in comfort and warmth.
4. Don’t sit down. If you sit on a cold bench or the frozen ground you get colder faster. This is because you start losing heat via a process called conduction, when heat transfers between a warm solid and a cold solid.
5. Tuck your trousers into your socks. This is to avoid something called the “chimney effect”. Dense cold air works it way into your trouser legs (or sleeves) and pushes light warm air out of other holes. This is a particularly unwelcome form of ‘convection’ which is the transfer of heat as colder air moves past an object.
From soaking up natural daylight to boost your mood to improving your physical health with a winter walk, there are so many benefits to be had from getting outdoors. We hope we’ve inspired you to wrap up warm, go outside and make the most of the colder months.