A typical winter’s colder temperatures and messy weather makes getting outside more challenging for many people. This year, with so many people spending more time inside and isolated from others, winter could spike loneliness and poorer health.

Spending time outside in the winter has lots of health benefits. It is often invigorating being in the fresh air and moving around can help combat the unhealthy habits of being too sedentary.

But motivation to get outside and get moving is sometimes tough to come by—especially if you’re not someone who naturally thrives on colder temperatures (yes—those people do exist!). Thankfully, it’s possible to learn to manage the cold so you can stay healthy, improve your mood, boost your resilience, and even keep your social life active!

1. Bring Out Your Inner Meteorologist

Listen to the news, check online, or install a weather app on your phone to keep up with changing weather forecasts. Pay attention to the real feel temperature—that tells you what the air really feels like once wind, humidity, and temperature are factored in. The real feel temperature can make all the difference to getting outside comfortably. A day that’s 40 degrees and sunny with no wind is going to feel a lot different from the same temperature with no sun and strong wind gusts.  Know what kind of weather you’ll be out in so you can plan the right way.

2. Dress the Right Way

Being active outside is a great way to clear you mind, reduce stress, and boost your immunity. But if you’re shivering because you’re too cold or sweating because you’re overheated, your mind isn’t going to focus on anything but being uncomfortable. Dress in layers when you’re heading out and if you’re planning to move—from a moderate to fast paced walk or more intense—dress so that any sweat isn’t absorbed by that first layer. Moisture-wicking clothes keep you warmer because they don’t get damp from sweat which means you’ll be more comfortable.

3. Don’t Forget the Extras

Make yourself comfy by protecting you head, feet, and hands. Hate hats? Use an ear warmer band. You ears are going to get cold quickly, especially if there’s wind. If it’s especially cold and windy, a thin glove under a thicker mitten or heavier gloves will help. Use heat pads in them if you tend to get very cold extremities. The same goes for your feet. Moisture-wicking socks layered under wool socks keep your feet dry and warm. Protect your face with a gaiter or scarf over your face covering.

4. Have the Right Equipment

Snow and ice can make the simplest hike perilous, and you don’t want to fall. Wear proper shoes that have thick rubber soles because running sneakers are no match for a patch of ice on the sidewalk or on the trail. If you aren’t out all the time, investing in a pair of inexpensive shoe coverings (like Yaktrax) gives you extra traction on slippery surfaces. If you’ll be out when the sun is setting or rising, have a flashlight. And wearing reflective gear and bright colors at all times of the day and night will help drivers see you. That’s as easy as putting on a reflective safety vest over your coat—no need to buy a new coat or clothes.

5. Get a Crew

The pull of staying inside can be pretty strong. If you meet up with a friend for a socially distanced walk or join a group dedicated to being outside, you’ll be much more motivated to keep those commitments. And you’ll be more successful at keeping with your plan. Meeting someone outside for some exercise will help stave off the loneliness that is so common right now during the pandemic. If meeting up isn’t easy, plan to make a date to call someone so you can talk and get outside (just use one earbud, so you can hear what’s going on around you).

This winter, try to get outside for some sunshine and fresh air and see if your mood, and your health, improves!

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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