The importance of staying active in the winter months


New winter session details were released, including registration dates, term dates and final exam date.

Hannah Scott

The cold months can often keep individuals cooped up in the house, but by thinking outside of the box, one can stay active with more freedom than just the treadmill. Staying active can be especially important in the colder months. 

Winter is notorious for being a season of dreary weather and days spent inside. It can feel difficult to have the motivation to do many things, let alone spend time outside or working out.

Jerry Rupert, assistant director of outdoor recreation in the Recreation Services department at Iowa State, said people should see getting outside and working out not as a chore but more as time to better themselves mentally and physically.

“Outdoor recreation is a part of the wellness unit at Iowa State now,” Rupert said. “We don’t just look at the exercise aspect of our activities but also how healthy individuals will be in all aspects of their lives. I think our society is so caught up on being inside all the time. It’s important to remember there’s a beautiful world out there to explore.”

For many, it may seem intimidating to find activities to do outside beyond just simply walking or running, while many students and other individuals have found ways to include the outdoors in ways that are a bit more creative.

“During the winter months, I love to ski,” said Hannah Johnson, junior in kinesiology and health. “It’s a great way to be outside and be active, even when the weather is colder.”

Even simple actions to increase time spent in fresh air can help one feel better throughout the day.

“Another unique way to increase the amount of time spent outside is to get off CyRide a stop earlier than you need and walk the rest of the way to your destination,” Johnson said. “I’ve found that this small change has had a really good impact on my mood. Being outside is a really good way to boost vitamin D levels, which helps build bones and also helps prevent certain cancers, heart disease and depression. On days when I’m outside and active, I usually notice that I’m a lot happier and have more energy.”

Along with the upward impact on individuals’ moods and day-to-day life, getting out in the colder months and making an effort to be active can actually lead to even greater health benefits than one may think.

“The upside is when it’s colder out, you burn more calories because your body is trying to keep itself warm,” Rupert said.

One of the largest aspects that may prevent individuals from getting out in the colder months is simply the comfort factor. If one doesn’t know the correct way to dress, working out in the cold can often be incredibly uncomfortable. It can be easier to exercise and participate in outside activities with the correct information and techniques.

Rupert offered a few of his best tips when it comes to how to be most comfortable when going outside in the winter.

“You need to layer,” Rupert said. “Make sure you have a base layer on and then a top layer and a coat. Buy some lined pants, and you can generally find some that even look like normal pants. Also, make sure you do not wear cotton. Cotton holds onto moisture, and so no matter how many layers you have on, if you are still wearing a cotton top, you will be cold.”

Getting outside is all about having the motivation to want to get moving, and sometimes, that can feel inconvenient. It’s all about finding what motivates you personally and trying to stick to that. 

“I think one of the best ways to increase motivation to be outside is to have friends that keep you accountable,” Johnson said. “This can be a great way to form a community but also keep you motivated to be outside and active.”

Keeping an open mind can make it easier to live a healthy lifestyle and find activities you enjoy in the colder months.

“You need to be willing to try different things, and then once you like it, that’s a new winter activity you have,” Rupert said. “Creating your own activities or going out of your comfort zone is a good thing.”

Ultimately, the goal of getting outside is truly something anybody can accomplish. It may mean 10 minutes or an hour, but having more fresh air and sunlight is never something one will regret.

It can often be easy to feel down or not energetic when the sun is sparse, so taking any chance you can get to be out in nature when it is nice out is a chance worth taking.