Perhaps you remember from a previous blog post that walking is the most popular form of exercise for Americans.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 times a week, so that adds up to a lot of nice walks. In addition, several clinical trials indicate that pain-sufferers can decrease pain and depression with increased physical activity. Exercise is beneficial for controlling blood sugar, for lowering cholesterol, for combating depression and anxiety and for increasing self esteem.
During the gorgeous Michigan summer, it was easy to be motivated to walk outdoors. As the days get shorter and cooler, it is tempting to avoid the trails and roads and either exercise indoors, which is a good alternative, or head back to the couch, a not so good alternative!
It is still beneficial to be outside. For those who get the blues (seasonal affective disorder) during dark winter months, taking in light is paramount. Cold air that is not uncomfortable can be invigorating; you’ve heard people talk about “clearing their head”. Michigan outdoor air does that.
If you want to extend your outdoor walking, you need to be sure that you are staying warm, dry and safe.
What to Wear for Fall and Winter Walks:
- Your should feel chilled, but not cold as you step out the door. During your walk, you should feel warm, maybe even a little sweaty, but not sopping wet.
- If your body feels the right temperature, you probably nailed down your workout outfit. If your old sweatpants and a comfortable sweatshirt feels good, fine. Go for it!.
- Lots of running and walking resources will give very specific guidelines as to how to dress. You can certainly consult these, but if you have clothes that work, don’t feel like you need to change what you’ve been doing.
- Layered clothing that will serve to keep the warm air close to your body is very efficient. Investing in clothing that wicks away moisture (not cotton) is helpful.
- A layer of fleece is great for cool walks.
- If there is moisture or precipitation, an outer waterproof layer is a must (but it should be thin enough not to restrict movement or to cause you to overheat.)
- A comfortable fleece hat, headband or earmuffs may be necessary, depending on the temperature and wind conditions. If the hat begins to bother you, you can always take it off. But if you forgot your hat, you can’t put it on!
- Choose thick, absorbent socks that do not interfere with the fit of your shoes.
- Inspect your shoes for holes or worn treads. Replace your shoes if necessary.
- Gloves or mittens are a must in the cold weather. If you are on the fence as to whether you need them, bring them; you can always put them in a pocket.
- Protect yourself from the sun (even if it appears not be shining). Wear sunscreen and protection for your lips, too. Sunglasses help as well.
- If a scarf makes you feel warmer, go for it. Some asthma sufferers like to wrap a scarf loosely around their faces, although scientists are divided as to whether this actually makes a difference.
Cold Weather Walking How-Tos:
- You need to give yourself time to warm up. If you are trying to get to a quick pace, start off slowly, do some dynamic stretching on the walk and perhaps do some stretching and calisthenics before you even walk out the door.
- Get out there and walk. There is no reason to walk more slowly or for less time if you are dressed appropriately.
- Cool down inside. You should not go directly from working out to sitting down. You need to cool down. But in cold weather, you don’t want to be in the elements, a little sweaty and not exerting yourself. That is better done inside.
- Admit to yourself when it’s too cold. At some point, it may not be safe to be walking outside. Ice patches or combinations of temperature and wind that make frostbite possible may eliminate outdoor walking for that day.
Ideas to Make Your Walks More Exciting or Challenging:
- Listen to great music that inspires you, whether it’s music with a fast tempo or fun music with happy lyrics.
- Add some hills to your route.
- Pick some places to go extra fast, what we could call an interval walk. (If you can run, go for it!) Vary where the intervals occur.
- Use a walking app like Map My Walk to find new routes nearby that other users have tried.
- Bring a walking partner, but not one who will slow you down during your walk.
- If you have to resort to the treadmill, do whatever you can to make that exercise time more fun and challenging. Play good music, watch entertaining shows, make yourself go up and down hills and practice some intervals.