“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” 
― John SteinbeckTravels with Charley: In Search of America

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to get in better shape or improve your health and well-being? Well your new best friend may be as close as your front door!  Oh, did I just suggest go outside in the cold??!!

On these shorter, darker winter days, we tend to stay indoors much more than in the warmer months and even finding motivation to get to the gym can seem arduous. In addition to a decrease in physical activity, the minimal sunshine can also negatively affect our happiness and well-being.

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Unless you are a winter sport(s) enthusiast, your outdoor exercise might not exceed going between buildings and vehicles – or as close to that as you can get,  BUT, the good news is you don’t need to be a skier or a fan of ice fishing in order to appreciate the outdoors!  You can still enjoy the crisp wintery weather and even get a little cardio in with little more than good intentions and the right gear.

It’s that simple I believe…..all you really need is a little preparedness which includes the right clothing AND the right attitude! So what to do?

Well, I know for for most Canadians, outdoor exercise during winter is normally limited to specific activities such as taking our kids tobogganing, skiing, and the like…

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But don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be an epic THING that you do once outside.  Simply put, with the right gear – or simply enough layers – something as simple as daily walks outside can be an enjoyable way to accomplish some quality cardio while getting much-needed feel good vibes from the sunshine.

Another key to “fun in the frigid” is to remember that fun and laughter go a long way to increase our enjoyment while we are out there and play an important part to mental well being.  Case and point, the last time I went for a mini winter hike with my hubby I convinced him to add on a stroll to our local Swiss Chalet for dinner.  This bit of ‘adventure’ transformed a routine hike into more of a fun date. (After a delicious quarter chicken dinner at Swiss Chalet pictured below…..yes we took our scarves off to eat)!

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In addition to the psychological and cardiovascular benefits, walking in newly fallen snow or only partly-cleared sidewalks is similar to using a balance board and engages numerous muscles which can be an easy and enjoyable means of increasing core strength. For the more uneven terrain, you’ll want boots that not only keep your feet warm and dry, but also ones that provides decent support.

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Since subjecting your ears to cold wind is a good recipe for illness, in addition a hat/hood combo, using ear buds to listen to music has the added benefit of blocking the wind from your inner ears. To minimize exposure to the elements, you’ll also want a scarf that you can easily pull up over your face and shades can provide a protective windshield for your eyes.

Cloud cover holds warmth in our atmosphere, so the sunniest days are often the coldest. But if you’re only going to the corner store for some milk or other essentials, your car is unlikely to be warm before you get there, anyway. So put on some extra layers and gear and go for a walk in the sun…

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SOME ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR SEASONAL SAFETY:

It is a fact that when the weather is bad, most people generally take less notice of their surroundings…(think parkas), creating prime time for those with ‘unholy’ intentions to go about their business with the least likelihood of being observed. So take extra precautions to be aware of your surroundings at all times.  Take a moment to look and listen, if you wear ear buds, how about just using one at a time and keeping your iPod’s volume low (but your spirits HIGH instead)!

Overall, I say if the cold weather is here anyways….let’s enjoy it and make the most out of one of the joys of living in Canada shall we?

Happy hiking!

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