Regarding healthy exercise, few activities are more versatile or accessible than walking. This low-impact activity can help improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and manage weight. It can also have mental health benefits, including reducing stress and improving mood. And when done in a group, like with friends or coworkers, walking can also be social. But as winter approaches and the temperatures drop, it can be tempting to abandon your daily walk instead of snuggling up on the couch with a good book or catching up with friends over coffee. But before you give up on your walks, consider how a few extra precautions can make winter walking just as good for you — and even better — than summery strolls.
Getting out and about during the winter can provide a new world of sights and sounds, from icy tree branches tinkling in the wind to fresh animal tracks in the snow. This can be a fun way to break up your routine and boost your motivation. It’s also a great way to get some vitamin D, essential for your bone and heart health and for warding off depression and anxiety.
In addition to the physical benefits, the cold weather provides additional benefits for those who stick with their walks, particularly regarding calorie burn. A study published in the American Journal of Human Biology found that hikers burned 34% more calories in chilly conditions than hiking in milder weather. That’s likely because walking in the cold causes you to work harder to keep your body warm, and a little extra effort burns more calories.
Choosing the right gear is another way to make winter walking more enjoyable. Wearing a waterproof jacket and warm, insulated boots that fit well can help you stay comfortable. You should also choose a breathable top layer such as merino wool or synthetic wicking fabric, and wear gloves and a hat to avoid losing heat.
You should also consider investing in hiking poles, especially if you need help keeping your balance on icy or uneven terrain. These can also help reduce the impact on joints and provide a full-body workout by engaging your arms, core, and legs.
Finally, remember to stay hydrated by drinking water before and during your walk. This will prevent dehydration and keep you energized throughout your walk. If your energy levels start to flag mid-walk, consider grabbing a snack of fruits and veggies. This will not only provide an instant energy boost but will also help to regulate your blood sugar. This can help to prevent the crashes that often occur when you eat sugary snacks.