During shorter days, it’s critical to spend time outside

2014-01-28T23:45:00Z 2014-01-28T23:57:04Z During shorter days, it’s critical to spend time outsideBy Carissa Klarich For The Gazette The Billings Gazette
January 28, 2014 11:45 pm  • 

On New Year’s Eve, people all over the world make New Year’s resolutions. Many people resolve to get healthier by eating less junk food, eating more vegetables, unplugging from technology or exercising more often. If you want to start the year with a health-focused resolution, consider getting active outside daily. Don’t let the cold weather keep you inside: bundle up, brave the cold and reap the benefits.

During shorter days, it’s critical to spend time outside. People living in higher latitudes are deprived of Vitamin D, resulting in seasonal affective disorder for millions of Americans. A little sun exposure can help remedy the deficit.

Spending as little as five to 30 minutes a day outside is sufficient for vitamin D synthesis, according to a study by University of Wyoming associate professor D. Enette Larson-Meyer.

Additionally, according to a 2011 study in Environmental Science and Technology, “exercising in natural environments is associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, depression and increased energy.”

Beginners can stay active doing various winter activities that aren’t costly or dangerous. Rent equipment from outdoor stores, take a lesson or join group outings with groups like the Montana Wilderness Association to get familiar with different sports.

Activities like winter hiking, snowshoeing and sledding can lead to improved aerobic conditioning and strength. Increase your effort by hiking or snowshoeing with poles.

Great workouts

Team up with your kids for a snowball fight, build a snow fort or snowman, or head to the playground. And don’t forget that shoveling and chopping wood are considered great workouts for total body fitness.

Making time for outdoor winter recreation doesn’t require that you forego strength training either. Similar to how sand makes walking and running more difficult, walking in the snow creates resistance and requires more balance in order to maintain stability.

For Minnesotan and polar explorer Eric Larsen, winter can’t come soon enough. He keeps a countdown clock on his Facebook page and posts weekly “Ice Wednesday” pictures.

To build strength for his arctic expeditions, Larsen devises some creative cold weather cross training, including hiking with a rock weighted pack and pulling truck tires.

But, even he doesn’t like being cold.

“People worry about being uncomfortable and cold. I often hear people say, ‘I hate the cold.’ More realistically, they hate being cold. I hate being cold, too,” Larsen said. “But I like being warm when it’s cold outside. No matter the temperature, people can be warm if they dress properly and manage layers.”

There are risks to outdoor winter recreation, including frostbite and slipping and falling. Wear proper layers and safety equipment, stay dry, pack provisions, a map and first aid equipment for longer outings, let someone know where you’re going and always consult with your physician before you begin a new fitness activity.

For adventure seekers

For advanced athletes, sports like Nordic, downhill and backcountry skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, ice skating, hockey and even winter biking are all great recreation options. Adventure seekers might enjoy dog sledding, skijoring or kite skiing. For two-time Olympian and former Alaska Pacific University Nordic coach Holly Brooks, Nordic skiing offers a total-body workout.

“Few risks are associated with my sport, which is why people of all ages cross-country ski. It’s a low-impact sport that’s easy on joints, uses the full body and cardiovascular system, and is an incredible workout,” Brooks said.

The simplest activities, like walking, will move you toward your New Year’s resolution fitness goals and away from the screen.

Professional skicross racer and X Games athlete Langely McNeal may enjoy hurling herself down the mountain, throwing elbows at any racer trying to pass her, but she always enjoys getting outside for a walk after dinner.

“Even when it’s freezing and I want to sit inside in my food coma, I feel better when I walk my dog around the block after dinner to look at stars, breathe the crisp air and digest my food. Even a 10-minute walk helps,” McNeal said.

Similarly, you might find that the stillness and quiet of winter provides the peace of mind you’re seeking.

Before you know it, you’ll be ready to shed layers for spring.

A former bicycle trip leader and wilderness guide, Carissa Klarich has advocated for active lifestyles as a SmartWool Athlete Ambassador and member of the Billings Chamber of Commerce/CVB Trails committee. Follow her on twitter @theactivelife.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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