Why Getting Outside is Good for You

enjoying the snow

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

It may feel like the official hibernation season; however, it’s much better for your health to get active outside than hunkering down inside until the snow melts.

1. You need to stay physically conditioned.

“Getting out and doing something is good for you,” said Greg Mills, owner of Murdock’s Bicycle & Sport in Oswego. “Whether it’s fast or slow, [running] a short distance or 10 miles, there’s health implications in just being active. Identify ways to get outside to be active. The more you work, the more you’re working your body and the less progress in fitness you’ll have to make up once the weather is warm again,” Mills said.

You may need to alter what you ordinarily do. Maybe a runner could try running snowshoes, for example. Or an inline skater could try curling or ice skating.

“Cross country skiing is a great way to be outside during the colder months,” said Jill Murphy, certified life coach and personal trainer at Mission Fitness in East Syracuse. “It’s a great cardiovascular workout, and for those outdoors people, will keep you motivated during those winter months.

“Any type of activity that you enjoy and that gets your heart rate elevated to some degree is going to aid in overall health. A body in motion stays in motion.”

2. Natural light and fresh air are good for you.

“Working out and staying fit outdoors rather than indoors incorporates the benefits of nature therapy as well as exercise medicine,” said physician Joanne Wu, an experienced yoga teacher, health coach and wellness expert who sees patients in Syracuse. “Studies have shown being around nature, surrounded by greenery, less noise and fresh air, helps with stress management as well as improve sleep quality and general wellbeing.

3. Going outside improves mental health.

Whether case of winter “blahs” or actual seasonal affective disorder (SAD), spending time outside can help boost your mood. Wu said that vitamin D deficiency, caused by lack of sunlight exposure, can contribute to depression. Should you suspect you may have SAD or another mental health issue, also seek help from a health care provider.

4. Recreation with others bolsters well-being.

As social creatures, humans need meaningful interaction with others. So join a ski club, skate with pals at the rink, go sledding with another family or just go for a walk in the snow with a friend. You’ll all benefit from a get-together.

5. Spending time outdoors may boost your immune system.

The New York Department of Conservation’s website dedicates an entire page to the benefits of exposure to forests and green areas. The page states that fresh air really does improve health.

“While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects,” it states. “Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.”

So get out there among the evergreens and support good health.