Benefits of Walking Outdoors
YMCA OF GREATER WAUKESHA COUNTY
TAKE STRIDES FOR YOUR BEST HEALTH
December 11, 2020
By Carrie Berg, New Berlin YMCA Wellness Center Staff
Don’t change your path when the colder weather hits! As the temperature drops, you can still take your exercise outside. There are many benefits to continuing to walk outdoors.
Burns More Calories
The American Journal of Human Biology found that people burn 34% more calories when they hike in cold weather than they do in more mild conditions. Walking more briskly, against the wind, or even in the snow can help burn calories.
Reduces Stress & Improves Focus
Sunshine and fresh air can help reduce stress. Sunlight increases the brain's release of serotonin, a hormone that boosts your mood and calms your mind. Fresh air generally has higher levels of oxygen than indoor air, so the more oxygen, the more benefits. More oxygen is going to your brain, which helps you to concentrate and improves your memory.
Helps Your Overall Health
The sun also helps your body produce vitamin D. According to an article in Harvard Health, “Epidemiologic studies are suggesting it [vitamin D] may have protective effects against everything from osteoporosis to cancer to depression to heart attacks and stroke.” The higher levels of oxygen found in fresh air also helps every cell in your body, especially your heart. More oxygen means the heart does not have to work as hard, so your heart rate slows and your blood pressure lowers.
OUTDOOR WALKING CLUB
TUE | 10:15-11:00 AM
Lace up your sneakers and take a 30-minute walk outside with our staff and other Y members at the New Berlin YMCA Wellness Center. In the event of inclement weather, treadmills are available indoors.
To save your spot online, click on Sign-Up or the pencil icon next to the class. You'll then be prompted to create an account or login with your email. You can also place class reservations by using the YGWC app.
WINTER WALKING GEAR
The key to staying warm and dry while walking outdoors is all about the fabrics and the layers. And think of all the fun hats and gloves to choose from!
While walking you should feel warm, but not sweaty. By wearing multiple layers, you can take off layers or put them back on based on the weather and how you feel. The first layer closest to your body should be a synthetic fabric designed to wick sweat away from your skin. Choose a lightweight fleece as the insulating middle layer. You can always add more middle layers, as needed. The outer layer should be a breathable waterproof fabric to help keep you warm and dry.
Make sure to wear socks that are meant for colder climates. Wool or ski socks keep moisture away from your feet. There are many options for footwear for the outdoors; be sure to have shoes or boots that will keep your feet warm. Adding slip on spikes, such as Yaktrax, over your shoes will help with traction on wet or slippery paths.
Remember to bundle up with a hat and gloves. Our heads have little insulation, so if you leave your noggin uncovered you will lose a fair amount of body heat -- up to 50% of it -- in cold-weather conditions. Wrap a scarf or a face mask loosely over your nose and mouth when you are ready to walk. This minimizes that sting of cold air when you breathe, which is especially important if you have heart or breathing problems such as asthma.
WINTER WALKING TIPS
Change Your Pace
Add intervals to your walk. Research shows that by changing from a moderate pace to 1-3 minutes of fast walking will increase your heart rate (for heart health) and burn more calories, which aids in weight loss.
Climb a Hill
Adding some extra challenges to your walk will not only increase intensity but improve your strength. By increasing your muscle mass, your body will naturally burn more calories and help build strength.
Mix Up Your Walk
Choose a different activity when you start to feel a bit bored with walking. Try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Use a pair of walking poles to give your upper body a workout while helping your balance, especially on icy paths.
While it may be easier to stay indoors when it's cold, try setting a micro goal, such as committing to a quick walk around the block or five minutes in the park. Set a dedicated time for your walks or include a friend. Having someone who will hold you accountable keeps the excuses at bay.
Add to your winter weather wardrobe -- a beautiful new hat or cozy warm mittens can bring some warmth and cheer to your walk.
And make sure to take the time to enjoy the outdoors! The quiet that comes with a winter wonderland allows for the opportunity to practice peaceful mindfulness.
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