With shorter, colder days and a lack of sunlight, winter often brings about the homebody in everyone — going outdoors can seem like too great a hassle. But staying too long indoors can negatively affect your mood, and research has shown that venturing outdoors improves mental health, mood and overall wellbeing.
Winter activities aren’t just for the highly adventurous or the fitness enthusiasts; there are plenty of things to do outdoors to benefit from nature’s calming touch, even when it’s cold outside.
Winter Activities for Beginners
- Take a walk.
It doesn’t have to be a hike through the wilderness, but a simple walk through nature can improve your mood. According to Stanford researchers, walking in a natural environment as opposed to walking in an urban setting can decrease the focus on negative emotions. Previous research on walking in nature also showed that just a 50-minute walk outside can decrease anxiety and improve mood.
When taking a walk outside in the winter, make sure you stay safe: wear warm, comfortable clothing, including a hat, scarf, gloves and water-resistant or waterproof boots with enough traction to prevent slipping. When walking over icy surfaces, adjust your stride to set your center of gravity over your front leg — in other words, walk like a penguin.
- Play in the snow.
Grab a friend or family member and build a snowman, make a snow angel or have a friendly snowball fight. Not only do these activities give the benefit of being outside, they provide an opportunity to socialize with another person and play — an important stress-reducer from which many adults shy away.
Intermediate Outdoor Adventures
- Go sledding.
All you need is a sled and a hill — no skill required. Sledding may not seem like exercise, but running back up the hill a dozen or so times makes it an intense workout, so make sure you can handle the exercise before heading out. Add the thrill of rushing down a slope, and it’s a perfect activity for those who don’t want to feel like they’re exercising.
- Take a spin on the ice.
If you’ve got the balance, head to an ice skating rink, rent some skates and go for a spin. Ice skating does require a little bit of skill, but falling down can add to the fun.
Advanced Winter Adventures
- Go cross-country skiing.
It may be an Olympic sport, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start cross-country skiing if you’re an amateur. To get started, you need some guidance: head to a recreation center that specializes in Nordic skiing to get acquainted with the sport, learn the techniques and understand the equipment. Cross-country skiing is essentially walking with skis — and it combines a full-body workout with a trek through nature.
- Hit the slopes.
Even if you’ve never been on skis or a snowboard, you can still become a master of the slopes at any age. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are intense winter activities that millions of people around the world enjoy — so join in, feel the wind whipping at your face and get a rush of adrenaline to fight against the winter blues.
Being outside even for just a short period of time during the day can improve moods, which can be even more important during winter’s dark days. Head outside with your family and friends to get some much-needed exercise and fresh air to elevate your mood.