It is that time of year again. The time for long lines, crowded stores, busy parking lots, shopping trips, holiday parties, and Christmas cookies. As you make your to-do lists, don’t forget one very important item: getting outside for some physical activity.
You’ve all heard the many benefits of being active, but going outside has more benefits than going to your nearest gym or fitness center.
When you are physically active outside during cold weather, your body must work harder to keep you warm. That means you will burn more calories than if you exercise indoors. Your heart works harder to pump blood throughout your body to keep you warm, giving you a better cardiovascular workout. Hitting your local park during the colder months of the year also means it won’t be as crowded, so you’ll have the extra benefit of peace and quiet to help reduce your stress levels.
In addition to the physical benefits of going outside for physical activity, there are mental benefits as well. Studies have shown that when you exercise outside, it can improve your mental health and decrease levels of tension, anger and depression. This can be especially important around the holidays when we are busier and under more stress than usual. Getting outside to enjoy some fresh air and sunlight can also help during the winter, when some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder due to the shortened days and long nights.
If you want to get the benefits of physical activity outdoors this season, you don’t need to take a rigorous hike through the woods. Just a 20-minute walk outside each day can help rejuvenate your physical and mental health.
Clermont County has many opportunities for outdoor recreation all year round. If you’re a nature lover, try going for a winter walk along one of the trails at East Fork State Park, Stonelick State Park, or one of the many county parks. If you prefer to stick to the pavement, try a walk along the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail, or the paved walking trails in one of the neighborhood and community parks throughout the county. You can find which parks or trails are near you, in our Places and Spaces brochure that can be found at www.ccphohio.org.
So this holiday season, as you make your shopping list and map which stores to visit, don’t leave your health off of the list. Between your stops at the next overcrowded stores, try to plan for a quick 20- minute walk outside.
Julianne is the Health Commissioner for Clermont County Public Health