One of the things we were all allowed to do during the early lockdown of 2020 was to exercise outdoors. While at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, this was only meant to be for an hour, it highlights how important it is for us all to head outside and be active as part of our routine. However, it was far easier, and a far more natural, thing to do in the spring of 2020 as the weather started to improve, and we all instinctively want to spend more time outdoors anyway.
So what do we do as the winter draws in, yet we all still need to remain active and head outside? Here, we look at how to stay outside as much as possible this Winter as well as why we need to stay exercising outdoors as often as we can too.
Why you need to head outdoors in winter
There are numerous reasons why we should all endeavour to head outdoors and get some fresh air this Winter. By knowing what they are, you can help incentivise and motivate yourself to keep getting outside and staying as physically active outdoors as possible - which remains even more critical during these unprecedented, unpredictable times.
We must stay active for our physical well-being. Simply being outdoors will often be more physically demanding than any time we spend indoors. Getting our heart rate up is so good for us as it burns calories, thus keeping our weight down as well as improving our cardio and respiratory capacity. Being physically well is a self-perpetuating cycle. The more you exercise, the fitter you will be and the more physically able you will be to fight off infections.
Infections spread far more easily indoors, which is why Winter and the colder months are often so beset with cases of flu, colds and coughs. In times of Covid and how dangerous some of these infections can be to us, going outdoors to get a daily dose of fresh air can also keep us safe from catching anything nasty.
One of the reasons the UK government was so keen to keep us all exercising during the initial stages of lockdown was not only for our physical health but importantly for our mental health as well. Exercise and being outdoors is great for clearing our heads due to the endorphins that our body releases during and post-exercise. Endorphins are the body’s feel-good hormones that help make us feel great and lift our moods. By getting outdoors and getting active, you will be helping yourself stay in a good mood in stark comparison to staying in to watch TV.
Going out for some fresh air allows us to socialise more safely. It is perhaps one of the best motivators for arranging to meet up with friends outdoors. You not only protect yourself, but you will also be protecting others as all of you will be far less prone to picking up any bugs or infections. While the weather can make it difficult at times to meet up in the open air, it will remain one of the safest places you can do so without fear of catching something that can make you very sick.
How to stay outdoors in winter
It is all well and good knowing why you should head outdoors and why you should specifically try to get outdoors as much as possible during Winter, but how do you do it practically, given that it can get so cold and wet in the UK when the days get shorter? Here we identify some key ways that can help you look after your physical and mental well being in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.
Get the right kit
There is no denying it; if you are going outdoors in the winter months in the UK, you are likely to embrace some pretty cold weather that can be very wet at times. Bearing that in mind, make sure you have the right clothing available in your wardrobe so that you can get out the front door in the first place. Ensure you have clothing that will keep you warm and dry in any circumstances and for whatever activity you are getting involved in when you do venture out. Another option is to look into awnings and garden heaters. Making the most of your own outdoor space is an easy way to help get some fresh air, whilst keeping your infection risk to a minimum.
Try a new hobby
Staying motivated to go outside when it is cold and wet can be challenging. An excellent way to ensure that you do keep up with physical activity is to start a new hobby that you enjoy. Gardening is a hobby that can be enjoyed year-round and is fantastic cardiovascular work for your body too. Walking as well can introduce you to new places while being kind to your joints and giving you a much needed total body workout.
Know your plan
The key to getting outdoors this Winter is to have a plan in place for what you are doing - and also what you are going to do if things go wrong. So, if you are going for a hike or walk that you haven’t done before, make sure you know your route and what you will do if there is a massive downpour. By knowing what you are doing, you will be far more confident about your activity from the outset and therefore far more likely to do it.
Know your risk level
In uncertain times in 2020 and beyond, perhaps one of the best things you can arm yourself with when getting active is knowledge. Know what your risk level is and how prone you are to infections - as well as how severe the risk is if you catch a nasty virus. If you are high risk, you may need to identify times and places where you can exercise or simply be outdoors without putting yourself in unnecessary danger.
Staying active this winter
Staying active this winter is a crucial way that we will all remain both physically and mentally healthy. Being both outdoors as well as partaking in some exercise is how we keep our bodies fit as well as our minds clear of stresses of modern life. Given that infections are more prevalent in winter, it can be challenging to do, but it is not impossible. Find an activity that you like doing, and you are more likely to stick to it. Plus, make sure you have taken into account all the risks that you are susceptible to so that you can mitigate against them as best possible.
We spoke to Zoe Homes from Splodz Blogz, who told Health Times: “We all know that getting outside is good for us. The science is well documented these days, telling us that as little as 15-minutes outside in the fresh air and natural light can have a positive impact on our physical and mental well-being. Add a bit of nature into the mix, and your body, mind and soul will all be grateful.
“Staying indoors has become normal life, but it wasn’t always this way and we are missing out. There are just so many reasons why we should be making an effort to spend as much time outdoors as possible. It can be much harder to carve out the time for it in winter, thanks to the short days and inevitable damp conditions – but it’s even more important to make the effort because we get much less of that easy or accidental time outdoors than we do in the summer months.
“The fact is, I know I am a better person when I’ve had some time outside. I am more energised, motivated, productive, calmer, less stressed, make better decisions, and absolutely feel happier. I cannot recommend making a daily habit of the simple act of going outside enough.”