Baby, It's Cold
Thanks to a relatively mild fall many of us were able to get outside more than normal and that’s a good thing. You can be sure that there will be many cold days ahead though, and I want to suggest that you get outside, however briefly, even on those days when you are tempted to cuddle up by the fire.
One of the less well-known benefits of spending time outdoors is the effect it has on our sleep patterns. Light exposure plays an important part in our circadian rhythm of sleep and wakefulness. Thanks to electricity, many of us spend hours each day in well-lit environments but the daylight from the sun is far more intense than electric lighting. Getting outside, especially in the morning, can help to keep your internal clock in sync. If you can find a sheltered spot facing the sun on a front porch or patio you might be surprised at how pleasant it is to take your coffee outside in the morning and how it improves your sleep at night.
If you like to exercise outdoors there can be benefits to doing so in colder weather. According to an article in Harvard Men’s Health Watch, cold weather may improve endurance because your heart does not have to work as hard, you sweat less, and expend less energy. Some studies have also shown that exercise in cold weather can transform fat found in the belly and thighs to “brown fat” which is more metabolically active, meaning it uses more calories. And, if you typically exercise early in the day you can get the dual benefit of that morning daylight.
And of course, one of the best reasons this year for spending time outdoors is that outdoor activities can pose a lower risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. When you are outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing the respiratory droplets that contain the virus. It’s not foolproof, so if you can’t maintain enough distance from others then be sure to wear a mask.
I jumped into a lake in the middle of winter several years ago as a participant in a “polar plunge” charity event. The water temperature that day was 37 degrees. I planned on it being a once in a lifetime experience and I haven’t changed my mind about that. I do, however, plan to spend more time outside this winter and hope that you will consider joining me.