Despite the arrival of the new year and, with it, a flurry of new year’s resolutions, winter is a time when it can be tempting to let good habits slide - often in favour of hibernating in front of the TV with a giant box of chocolates. But with the decreased exposure to sunlight that comes with shorter, darker days, Vitamin D levels are at an all-time low in winter, often leaving you feeling lethargic, low and sapped of energy. Getting some fresh air is more important than ever now, and for more reasons than you might think.
Mark Simpson, Managing Director at much-loved Ashburton walking spot, River Dart Country Park, says that winter is peak season for walkers in search of some rejuvenation and enjoyment – and that with the right attire, you needn’t let the elements put you off. “At this time of year, we see lots of people wrapped up warm and out for a stroll here at the park, whether it’s with their families, friends, or their dogs. A long walk or a wander can be just as much fun in the rain, especially with kids – just make sure you’ve got your waterproofs and your woollies, as being prepared is key!
“We’re lucky to be set in extensive grounds, with an array of beautifully scenic woodland trails to choose from. It’s a great place to get a bit of exercise, immerse yourself in nature, and get a bit of fresh air whilst you’re at it.”
The benefits of getting outdoors this winter are greater than you might think, so to get you motivated and pulling on those wellies, Mark shares five crucial reasons to enjoy the beautiful Devon Countryside over the coming weeks – whatever the weather.
1. Fresh Air: Outdoor air is generally far less polluted than indoor air, especially if you seek out natural areas with lots of plant life, like woods and open fields. Being cooped up in winter and sharing enclosed spaces with others also means we’re more likely to catch germs, and the drier indoor air helps viruses survive longer, making colds and flu more likely. Getting outside gives your body a break from indoor air – so wrap up warm, get outside and breathe in that fresh, clean air!
2. Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiencies are surprisingly common in winter, thanks to reduced exposure to sunlight as we spend more time indoors. Vitamin D plays a critical role in our health and wellbeing. A lack of it can leave us feeling tired, lethargic and low in mood – but stepping outside for just 20 minutes a day in winter can make all the difference.
3. Exercise: It’s easy to let your exercise regime slip in winter, but at this time of year, getting your heart pumping is more crucial than ever. Exercising in the cold is also good for you, as your body uses more energy to regulate your core temperature, which then raises your heartrate and boosts how many calories you burn. It’s also a super way to keep off any weight gain from the extra calories we all tend to eat and drink at this time of year!
4. Improve your mood: The shorter days and darker evenings are known to have a negative effect on our moods, and exposing yourself to the sun’s rays is one of the best ways to overcome the winter blues. Stimulating the release of serotonin, a feel-good chemical which improves the production of melatonin and therefore, regulates our sleep cycles, it’s the best medicine available.
5. Reduce Stress: The great outdoors can do more than just boost your mood, and taking time out of your day to immerse yourself in nature can work wonders for your stress levels. An emerging field of psychology has shown it to be highly effective, and just a short stroll accompanied only by the sounds of nature having a huge and positive impact on your mental wellbeing.