The research is clear: spending time in nature improves our physical, mental and social well-being.
Yes. Even when it’s cold outside.
Ready for a healthier 2017? We chatted with parks planner Will Kershaw to find out how he stays fit and healthy during the winter months. These are his top tips:
Find your dream space
“There are places that we go to — both mentally and physically — that become part of our routine.” — Will Kershaw
Struggling with a new habit or regime? Let nature be your motivation.
We all have preferred destinations. For Will, it’s the ski and snowshoe trails. A few favourite landmarks on a snowshoeing ramble or the groomed, track-set cross-country trails.
What makes a place special to you? Is it the sound of birdsong or the burble of a creek? The crunch of boots through snow or the whoosh of cold air on your face as you glide along a ski trail?
Whether you’re after the camaraderie of the skating rink or the solitude of the trails, we bet you’ll find your ideal winter space in our parks.
The crowds are gone; the forest is hushed; the air is crisp and invigorating. Dust off skates, skis and snowshoes, or head out on a tubing or dogsledding adventure. It’s also a great season for viewing wildlife, and the parks are full of fun winter activities.
Don’t forget to buddy up. Form a ski group or walking group. Plan a walking meeting or family skating trip. Having a community of outdoor enthusiasts keeps you moving and motivated on your low-energy days.
Dress for success
Staying warm in the winter is all about layers.
If you’re planning a full winter workout, Will suggests “starting cool and ending warm.” Plan ahead to ensure you don’t overheat.
We’ll be talking about winter dress in more depth next week, but here’s a good start:
- Base layer: synthetics or Merino wool will help wick away moisture from your skin
- Middle layer: insulating layer designed to retain body heat, like fleece
- Outer layer: a waterproof, windproof layer, such as Gore-tex
Check the weather report before you head out, and don’t forget hat, mitts and scarf!
Mix indoor and outdoor activities
Okay, but what about those days it’s just too cold to spend time outside?
Will recommends a regular indoor routine. He completes his short 20-minute workout in his kitchen while waiting for the porridge to cook.
Will’s Pre-Work Workout*
Repeat for 3 cycles:
- bird-dog pose (hold for count of 100 on each side, repeat three times)
- push-ups (challenge yourself to do one more every day)
- sustained plank (hold for count of 100)
- crunches (Will jokingly suggests crunching out your age)
- pelvic lifts (hold for count of 100)
- half shoulder stance (hold for a count of 100)
*remember: this is just an example. Find the healthy habits that work for you.
Not ready for a full workout? Find creative ways to get more activity in your everyday routines
Set a timer at your desk to make sure you’re standing up regularly (even if it’s just a walk around the office). Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or test out a standing desk.
Set goals you can measure
Once the ski season blows in, Will spends time on the trails. He tracks how far snowshoes and skies, aiming for 40 km per week.
We did the math. With a solid three months of winter, 40 km per week adds up to 500 km over the season. Now that’s a stat to be proud of!
What healthy achievement would make you proud?
Some people track their steps or commit to a certain number of activities per week.
Whatever your goal, make sure you have a way to track your progress. Keep yourself accountable with tools like:
- checkmarks on a calendar
- smartphone apps
- a Fitbit or step-counter
- a 30×30 Challenge
Make it meaningful
If we want our new habits to stick, we can’t choose activities we find monotonous or mindless.
So figure out what activities have meaning for you.
Are you motivated by:
- the adrenaline rush of the ski trails?
- a social community or friendly competition?
- the peace and tranquility of a winter stream or fresh snowfall?
- the thrill of spotting a new species?
- the sense of accomplishment after completing your daily checklist?
Remember: time spent in nature can:
- lower blood pressure
- strengthen the immune system
- mitigate disease
- reduce stress levels
- increase creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving abilities
- reduce negative emotions, including anger, fatigue and sadness
- boost memory performance and attention span