With the onset of cold weather, many native Utah animals that we know and love begin a period of hibernation. Some species fall under the category of "obligate hibernators," or those that will enter hibernation each year regardless of outside circumstances. While others, "facultative hibernators,” will enter hibernation when either cold stressed, food deprived, or both. While it may be tempting for us to want to curl up and sleep out these cold months, there are many advantages to staying active during the winter. Here are 7 reasons why maintaining an active winter lifestyle outdoors is more beneficial than hitting the gym:
1. You’ll strengthen your heart
Cold weather makes your heart work harder to distribute blood throughout the body. As long as your heart and body are used to some exercise in the cold, the continued activity in cold conditions strengthens your heart muscles and provides cardiovascular endurance for future workouts and life stresses. Just be sure to make your way to high ground, like Toll Canyon Park City, in the case of inversion.
2. You’ll burn more calories
While all of us are different when it comes to burning calories, generally the body has to work harder to maintain its core temperature in cold weather as opposed to a workout inside. This may just be the extra push you need to opt for the outdoors! So bust out the backcountry skis and take advantage of a few Snake Creek Canyon runs.
3. You’ll bring more mindfulness to your workouts
It may be easy to zone out while running on a treadmill or using the elliptical, but the variation and changing scenery in nature causes us to pay more attention to our workouts and to our surroundings. There is also significant evidence that shows the more present you are in your workout, the more beneficial it will be. Test the theory with a trail run along North Salt Lake Bonneville Shoreline, soaking in the beautiful view (and staying cautious of any slippery winter conditions!)
4. You’ll get a great dose of vitamin D
Spending the colder months exercising in a gym doesn't provide you with the same necessary amounts of vitamin D that you receive throughout the warmer parts of the year. You'll also be extra grateful for this added time in the sun due to the amount of natural light being so limited already.
5. You’ll connect with nature in a different way
Many of us have certain associations or experiences with the animals that live in Utah. But getting outside during the winter months can be a great way to observe new patterns and behaviors in the species that we know and love. You just might witness a snowshoe hare's changing colors, or a deer's thicker winter coat like here on Wolf Creek Ranch.
6. You can boost your mood
Cold weather exercise has the ability to make you feel more energized and lift your mood because of the lack of humidity and the stimulating nature of the chill. Additionally, the cold activates your parasympathetic system, known as the "relax and renew" system. Also, the harder your body works to stay warm in the cold, the higher the amount of endorphins produced.
7. You’ll strengthen your immune system
So its not the cold weather after all! While many people believe that spending time in cold weather can make you sick, WebMD explains that it is just the exposure to viruses that brings the onset of colds and flus. In fact, staying inside poses a greater risk, exposing you to other people who may pass on germs. By opting outside you take advantage of one of the greatest ways to strengthen your immune system, according to Harvard Medical School.