A few days ago we were on a local podcast called, What the Fit. We talked about a number of topics. You should listen when it airs (we’ll let you know the date). One of the topics we discussed was Seasonal Depression and to quote John Snow the fact that, “winter is coming.” Winter in Cincinnati, OH isn’t always pleasant and it can be easy to hibernate on our couches in PJs eating comfort food. However, there are a plethora of benefits to bundling up and getting out there, even if just for a brief walk. We all know a walk feels great regardless of temperature, and it turns out there is evidence to support this. Here are some evidence-based benefits of going for a chilly stroll.
It can help your brain. According to research from Stanford University, a stroll outdoors can actually improve brain functioning and mental focus. Another study from the University of Utah and University of Kansas found that backpackers scored 50 percent higher on creativity tests after spending four full days in nature without any electronics. That’s pretty telling. Additionally, a different study showed that kids with ADHD are likely to score higher on concentration tests after time outdoors. Not shocked, but I’m glad there’s data to support this.
It can help your mood. We recently published an article by guest author, Gina Reagan, about Seasonal Depression. That shit is real. In fact, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the cause of recurrent depression in 10 to 20 percent of women in the U.S. According to the Mayo Clinic, one remedy for SAD is more time outdoors, despite the temperature.
It provides solitude and silence to reflect. Not everyone likes being alone with their thoughts. It can be scary to stop and look inward, but it’s super important for a number of reasons. Walking outside in winter can be calming because typically you're the only lunatic (or genius) out there braving the chill. Some of my favorite memories are walking in silence with my Mom in the dead of winter. There is something so peaceful and calming. I can basically hear the birds singing silent night.
It can be physically healing. According to a study from the University of Pittsburgh, people that had just undergone spinal saw lower levels of both pain and stress after they were exposed to more natural sunlight. In fact, patients exposed to 46 percent more sunshine took 22 percent less pain medication per hour. Another study, published in 2008 in the Journal of Aging Health showed that Seventy-year-olds who spent time outdoors daily reported fewer bouts of pain and had less trouble sleeping. They also seemed to show less of a decline in day-to-day activities. Bye, bye botox.
It can increase community. There is nothing better than a walking crew. My mom has a pal that she’s walked with every day since I was in grade school. They walk rain or shine and in the heat and freezing cold. They chat about everything on those walks and have supported each other through a lot of hard times like losing a spouse and breast cancer. There is something about walking and being outside that makes it easier to talk about hard things.
Which is why (drumroll please) What the Fit and CincyStateofBeing are staring a winter walking club. We’re having coffee next week to iron out the details but stay tuned. We want to walk with you in the freezing cold. Because, duh, we’re trying to live long, be healthier, and be happier.