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  • Writer's pictureJackie

Cabin Fever? Exercise Outside

#1 in the Winter Wellness Series

Well, they've been here for a while now—winter weather & shorter days. In fact, as of this post, there are exactly two months remaining until the official start of spring. That's 8 more weeks of managing a winter wellness routine, possibly more than that should the weather remain wintry into April (gasp!!). So, how are your habits holding up? Colder temps, less sunshine, and pseudo-hibernation can all indirectly put a dent in our health & quality of life. But with a little conscious effort, we can still manage, for at least chunks of time, to feel good over the course of the next couple of months.

So, for the next four weeks, here at, you'll find a post addressing a specific winter health & fitness obstacle. Up first: outdoor exercise & why it's worth leaving the warmth of home...

It sounds like a no-brainer to say, hey, if you're feeling cooped up this winter, just take your workout outdoors! There, problem solved. In fact, exercising outside in winter delivers a positive triple-punch: a calming dose of nature, the endorphin lift from brisk physical activity, and possibly a mood boosting sun bath.

But... When you’re cozy enough inside to wear a tank top during your home workout, yes, going outside will probably feel like a monumental chore. Even if you LOVE nature, like me, you’ve likely already switched to indoor exercise, possibly months ago, and this means you have a HABIT on your hands. Habits are good things, right? Absolutely, but you may want to shake yours up a bit to glean some benefits.

Think about this. When you exercise outdoors...

You expose yourself to the natural world. And benefits ensue.

Assuming you’re immersing yourself in at least some green space, going outside delivers some very real benefits. Outdoor exercise, even at lower intensity, has been shown to reduce feelings of anger & depression and to boost mood & self-esteem! For many, even without a pandemic raging, winter in the North tends to trigger blues and frustration thanks to cabin fever. Many also face post-holiday nose dives in self-esteem after losing their hold on healthy eating & exercise. Imagine simply stepping outdoors (for even just 15 minutes) and feeling better.

You might have a better opportunity to raise heart rate.

Thus you will not only release those feel-good endorphins we exercisers all know & love, but your workout will have a better chance of serving your goals of improved cardio fitness and/or weight loss, etc. If you don’t own a piece of cardio equipment or have access to a gym this winter, then pumping up heart rate indoors can be a little challenging. Of course, you can certainly jump into some internet workouts, but you’ll need to clear a chunk of space, take care not to twist joints on carpeting or jar them too intensely on cement floors, and ignore myriad distractions around you. Outside, you have space to FLY! Okay, more literally, to walk, jog, sprint, cycle, travel via walking lunges, WHATEVER jacks your pulse up to moderate intensity (or into short bouts of high intensity).

You reap the benefits of sunlight.

Assuming you’ve picked a sunny hour, your body will appreciate the opportunity to 1) produce vitamin D (provided you keep a bit of your skin exposed), which is stored in fat cells & often becomes depleted in winter, and 2) stave off seasonal affective disorder. (For lots more info on SAD, check out the next post in this Winter Wellness series to be published next Wednesday.) Also, let’s mention here that you’ll get some nice, big gulps of fresh air when you take your workout outside.

If you always WANT to exercise outdoors, but it never seems to happen, try one of these approaches.

  • Check the weekly forecast & your own busy calendar, and SCHEDULE your outdoor workout. Don’t just assume you’ll play it by ear. Like any other workout, it probably won’t happen unless you’ve committed to exactly WHEN you’ll make it a reality.

  • Make a box of gear. I keep my hiking boots (also the pull-on cleats), favorite fleece, Under Armour tights, wool socks, stretchy gloves, and cutest pom-pom hat all in one place, so that, even if it’s a quick zip around the neighborhood, I’m good to go.

  • Pick a place to go or have a task in mind. Maybe you’ll walk over to sit at so-and-so’s firepit. (Just make sure they’re home...okay, I’ll assume they’re hosting you!) Maybe you’re biking to the convenience store. Maybe you’re picking up pine cones for that cool wreath you plan to create. (I know, it always comes back to crafts with me.) Maybe you’ll walk until you’ve listened to two chapters of an audiobook. Whatever it is, make it appealing enough to lure you out the door.

  • Switch a workout to your favorite winter activity. If this means shoveling snow, wow, I applaud you. (This DOES count as a workout, an extremely intense one, by the way, so if you’re not very active, you may want to take it easy or hire help. If you’re concerned, the Cleveland Clinic offers excellent advice.) Do you ski, skate, snowshoe, snowboard, hike? Revisiting these hobbies might exhilarate you so much, someone will have to call you in for dinner! To this day, I reminisce about ice skating like a speed demon after school on a huge lake at Silas Condict Park (NJ)!

If ever there were a time when cabin fever could cramp our wellbeing, this winter could be it. Personally, I regularly plan to bundle up, buttercup, and just get out there. Look for my clouds of breath & cherry nose, and I’ll catch ya in the winter wonderland!

Photo by VisionPic .net from Pexels


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