5 Ways to Stay Healthy and Happy in Winter Weather

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Winter is the biggest excuse for slacking on fitness goals and slipping into the blues. The less sun exposure you get in the day, the less mood-enhancing vitamin D you produce, and the less apt you are to be active outdoors; winter blues make sense. But with the incentive of some awesome outdoor activities and some innovation, you can boost your fitness and quality of life all the way to spring.

Here are five ways to keep fit and elevate your mood this winter.

1. Cross country skiing

Cross country skiing, or XC skiing, is a super fun way to escape cabin fever for some sunshine, fresh air, and a hell of a workout. Most people don’t get into cross country skiing because it’s hard to find anybody who actually does it; XC is definitely an outlier sport.

As Kim McKenney, cross country blogger, puts it, “You can literally fly along the trails, enjoying the beautiful scenery and fresh air, while at the same time having an incredible physical experience. You move like you’re running, but there’s no jarring feeling — it’s very smooth. Plus there’s the glorious feeling of the glide.”

Many people have the misconception that XC means spending hours slogging along in the middle of nowhere, totally exposed. But most ski resorts and mountainous areas have different levels of groomed trails that are safe and convenient. You can rent gear to start or purchase a beginner’s set inexpensively enough. Either route, cross country skiing is a solid investment in your fitness and quality of life during the winter.

2. Increase vitamin D

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Admittedly, it can be difficult to even think about doing something new when you’re in the doldrums of a vitamin D deficit; not having enough vitamin D is linked to depression. The human body naturally synthesizes vitamin D from sunlight, so as daylight decreases and the sun’s rays are less direct, it’s easy not to get enough of this mood-boosting vitamin. But there are options.

Food: There are plenty of foods that are high in vitamin D that are wintertime favorites. Cod liver oil, fish like trout and salmon, oysters, mushrooms, dairy products, and eggs are all high in vitamin D. Don’t skimp on the shrimp either!

Light therapy: Clever manufacturers have created lamps that approximate the spectrum of natural light in sunshine that promotes vitamin D production. Sperti has a highly rated model that can give you your daily dose of D in five minutes.

Supplementation: Dr. Andrew Weil recommends adults take 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, which is the most active form in the human body.Check out this vegan-made D3 supplement derived from lichen.

3. Ice skating

Ice skating is especially fun if you have a family or partner. But if you are solo, it can be a good way to meet other singles. Aside from being fast paced and inherently light hearted, you can get a serious glute, thigh, and ab workout in an hour of skating and burn quite a few calories while you’re at it. 

Most towns have ice skating centers that charge under $15 bucks per session, and you can even get a year pass for a couple hundred bucks. Since aerobic exercise has been shown to have just as significant a mood elevating effect as drugs for depression, ice skating is a smart choice to keep fit and beat wintertime blues. 

4. Snowshoeing

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

As of 2012, snowshoeing is the fastest growing winter sport in the world; in 2012 there were over 4 million participants in the U.S. alone. In our modern world of indoor gyms and treadmills, slapping on snowshoes to move around outdoors doesn’t normally appeal as a primary exercise option. But it should — moving around in the 3-D terrain of real life is so much more engaging than running on a hamster wheel in a sterile gym.

It’s easy to lose touch with the outdoors when you’ve got two feet of snow piled outside, but that’s what snowshoes are for. They’ll give you an opportunity to get back in touch with nature in a way you probably haven’t experienced.

Tiffany at Tubb’s Snowshoes has this to say of the sport: “Since discovering snowshoeing, I look forward to winter. Winter can be long and dreary without a seasonal activity. Don’t fall into that winter rut. Snowshoeing will keep your spirit light and make those winter months go by in a flash.”

Tubbs has a snowshoe with excellent reviews at a very reasonable price. Give this activity a try, and you might be a winter convert.

5. Go somewhere warm

When all else fails, change your environment. What could be better than sipping on a margarita and playing beach volleyball in Cabo when everyone else back home is clutching their blankets with icy skeleton-fingers? Nothing. As a bonus, studies have shown that the act of planning a vacation leads to measurable increases in mood. (And we all know delighting in other people’s misery can make you a little happier.)

If you aren’t able to steal away from the country for a while, you can check out awesome indoor water parks like Great Wolf Lodge in the South, Autopia Indoor Waterpark in the Northeast, and Avalanche Bay in the Midwest. These are all great spots to take family or friends for a wintertime boost.

Honorable mentions:

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