CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP)– While you may be dreaming of the fun of warm sunny days, outdoor recreation in winter can be beneficial to your physical and mental health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity “can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities.”
During the winter months when days are shorter, some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression. One of the treatments is light therapy, which includes getting outside on a sunny day.
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife encourages state residents to go outside and enjoy the natural beauty found in winter while getting needed exercise and fresh air. You don’t need to be outside for long to experience the mental and physical benefits.
First, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. Include warm wool or fleece socks, winter boots that are waterproof and made for cold temperatures, a hat, gloves, and scarf or facemask. Dress in layers such a thermal shirt, flannel shirt, sweater and a wind resistant coat or jacket. Light snow pants or thermal leggings under pants help to keep the legs warm. Bring sunglasses to protect your eyes from wind and the bright sun. Wear sunscreen on your face.
The most basic activity is walking. Go to a local park or hiking trail. It doesn’t have to be a day long adventure. Just 30-60 minutes of walking is beneficial. If there’s snow, try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or sledding.
Some other things to do while outdoors in winter: wildlife identification, bird watching, and ice fishing. And take your camera to catch the beauty of the winter landscape.
Bring snacks and water, and let someone know where you’re going and what time you plan to return.
Be adventurous and find new areas to explore. MassWildlife manages nearly 230,000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) that provide habitat for wildlife and give people a place to explore natural landscapes (there are no maintained trails). WMAs are open to the public for hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing. Use MassWildlife’s Lands Viewer to find a property near you. Additionally, Massachusetts has over 150 state parks to choose from.