When it comes to enjoying winter weather, you can generally clump people into three groups. One grabs the cold weather garb and gleefully heads out into it, the second appreciates looking at it and might venture out for a walk sometimes, and the third wants to pull the covers over their heads and hibernate.
No matter what kind of winter person you are (or are not), getting out and into winter provides health benefits for mind and body. And while you have to be smart about going out into the cold, there's plenty of research to back up why you might want to give it a try.
An article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health explores the risks and benefits of ice swimming. The sport could be dangerous for people who are not trained, but for those who are properly trained, the sport may be healthy. The article notes that ice swimming may benefit the cardiovascular system, endocrine system, immune system and the psyche. But maybe we should leave that sport to the athletes specializing in exercising in extreme cold.
For those of us who are not ice-swimming athletes, research shows that getting outside and moving in winter may help ward off symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And it helps you burn more calories, which makes sense because your body has to work harder to keep temperatures up. Results of another study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology show that spending as little as 10 to 20 minutes outside hanging out in or walking in nature benefits the mental health of college students.
So it seems that taking time to bundle up and experience the outdoors in winter is healthy because it helps clear your mind, gets you moving and while you're out there you might even get more social interaction. As long as you prepare.
Before you head out, dress in layers with a warm coat, hat, gloves, scarf and boots with good treads so you don't slip. Cold weather can make you thirsty, so don't forget to hydrate. A study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows that you may feel up to 40 percent less thirsty in cold weather.
I loved winter as a kid, and sort of fell out of love with it as a teen. But now I embrace winter weather, and take the time to gout in it almost every day. I may be crabby when I step out into it, but I almost always return with a smile.
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