Winter Hiking: A Great Way to Have Some Fun and Get Healthy
Posted Nov 23 2012 10:02pm
Winter Forest by Larisa Koshkina
One of my favorite ways to get some exercise is to go hiking. Unlike the gym, the scenery around you changes, you can take your time, you can easily either spend those precious moments talking with your friends, or simply enjoying the natural world around you. On a hike you can walk as little as forty steps or mile; the choice is entirely up to you. Plus, in most forest preserves or parks, there are ready made trails, specifically designed for the hiking level that you want to tackle for that day.
Most people consider hiking to be an activity best undertaken during the spring or summer months. Not me. Chances are during the fall and winter months you’ll find me walking through the woods, the hills, even the local parks. I love going outside for a stroll in the colder weather, and here’s a few reasons why.
Reason # 1: A More Effective Workout
While hiking in the warmer months is very enjoyable, the amount of calories that you burn during the trek isn’t always that much. Hiking is about exploring the world around you, and seeing the world through new eyes. The calories that you burn and the muscles that you tone are just added benefits, really.
However, when you hike during the colder months, your body has to burn more calories just to keep warm. Because one of the best ways to accomplish this is through movement, you also get the chance to use your joints, exercise those muscles, and the rest of your body. This makes the simple act of walking through the woods a great exercise. Of course, it is necessary to take precautions on a winter hike, ones that you might not consider during the summer months. For starters, there are limits to what your body can handle in regards to the weather. Don’t go out if it is too cold or a storm is coming through. Also, it’s a good idea to cut your normal hike time and distance in half during the winter months. You will tire more easily, and the worst thing to have happen is to hit a wall of exhaustion when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
Reason # 2: A Time for Focus and Reflection
One of the things that I love about the winter landscape is that it strips away so much of the things that clutter the world around us. While most see a winter tree stripped of its leaves covered with a blanket of snow as something desolate, I see it as a reminder that all things change. In order for the tree to bring forth flowers and leaving in the summer, and produce seeds, there must be a time of rest and renewal during the winter months. Even the evergreens take some time to rest during the winter months, and will lower their production of food and growth to only what is necessary. Even the animals slow things down a bit; and some like the bear even hibernate to rest and restore. Hiking during the winter is a great way to remind yourself that you shouldn’t go full tilt all the time. A person’s wellbeing is also dependent on their ability to quiet her body and mind when needed.
Reason # 3: Keeping a Good Thing Going
For many people, the winter months is seen as a time to hunker down inside, and listen to the fire while the wind and snows howl outside. While I’m all for enjoying a hot mug of cocoa next to a roaring fire, it is important to remember that your health shouldn’t take a back seat when the snows hit the ground. Going for a hike during the winter, even a very small one can be a great way to make sure your good habit of exercise stays with you. It’s also a great way to fight cabin fever, since it gets you out of the cabin and shows you that life in the natural world doesn’t stop just because your down quilt is feeling a bit warmer.
So go outside and enjoy what the world has to offer. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Laura Seeber is a geologist, environmental professional, writer, and outdoor and nature enthusiast. Born just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Laura has spent the majority of her life hiking through the forest, descending into caves, climbing over boulders and up cliffs, navigating river rapids, and writing and blogging about her adventures. She currently resides in Illinois and travels country in search of the next great outdoor activity or adventure.