6 Great Reasons to Get Outside and Stay Active Even in the Cold

People walking in a snowy landscape
credit: sean dreilinger

Daily exercise is important no matter what time of year it is, but in the winter it's especially hard to stay motivated. When temperatures drop, it's far less comfortable outside, not to mention the hassle of all of the extra layers. If you have kids, you understand how much work it is to clothe all members of your family just in order to get out the door. The excuses are easy to come by when it's frigid and staying inside where it's warm is very appealing, but research shows that the extra hassle is worth it, not just because exercise is essential for good health, but because getting outside and moving in the winter is actually extra beneficial for both adults and kids. From improving your mood to burning more calories than exercising in other seasons, winter exercise brings a host of benefits. Read on to check them out.

of 6

Exercise is more effective

credit: Mikael Colville-Andersen

If you walk, run, hike or bike during the rest of the year, but take it easy during the winter, you're missing out on a major fitness boost. Because your body works harder to warm itself when in cold temperatures, physical activity during the winter can burn more calories than during other seasons and your heart works harder too. That means a better cardio workout and better endurance when spring comes. Make sure to wear light layers to stay warm without overheating and make sure hands and feet have protection from the elements.

of 6

Keep the winter blues away

credit: will_cyclist

It's been proven that a walk outside in nature can reduce stress and improve your mood. This is especially needed in winter when most of us suffer from at least some form of winter blues. The shorter days and gray, cold weather that keeps us inside majorly cuts our exposure to sunlight, which means our Vitamin D and serotonin levels drop. Making a daily practice of getting outside and soaking up sunlight can dramatically improve the mood of kids and adults alike. The serotonin boost from daylight coupled with the endorphins produced from exercise will have you feeling happier and less stressed.

of 6

Stave off colds and the flu

credit: swambo

Cold and flu viruses infect so many people during the winter because we're cooped up inside together and it's easier for the viruses to pass from person to person. Getting yourself and your kids outside more during the cold months can keep you well for two major reasons. The first is that spending time outside instead of indoors cuts down your chance of catching the viruses in the first place. It's called fresh air for a reason. The second is that studies suggest that regular moderate exercise can boost your immune system, meaning even if you or your kids are exposed to those nasty viruses, your body will have any easier time fighting them off.

of 6

More energy, better sleep

credit: Sky Noir

The darker, colder days can leave us feeling fatigued and sluggish as though we can't ever get enough sleep. Regular exercise though can both improve your energy levels during the day and help you to sleep more soundly at night so that you feel well-rested. Exercise has been proven to increase energy levels for hours after you've been active and that extra exertion during the day means that your body will more readily fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Take time for walks during your lunch break or after school with the kids and you'll all have better mornings and nights.

of 6

Improve memory and attention

credit: clarkmaxwell

Going outside relieves stress and boosts your mood, but it turns out that time spent outdoors can also improve memory and attention span. A study by the University of Michigan found that being outside in nature has similar benefits to meditating, which has also been shown to improve cognitive performance, and that those improvements happened whether it was warm and sunny or cold and gray. Those benefits are great for adults, but they could also mean better performance at school for children.

of 6

Improve balance and build muscle

credit: Clara S.

When exercising outside in wintry weather you can meet a lot of different obstacles from soft snow to icy sidewalks, but it turns out that those things that make exercising harder are building better muscle and balance, particularly in growing kids. Adults can see it as a better fitness outcome, but kids who take part in winter play like climbing up snowy hills and sledding back down them are improving their gross motor skills as well as their core strength for balance and agility.