Want to be happier? Go outside

Today is Halloween, which tends to mean a lot of candy. But most of us will also do a healthy activity today that we should probably do more often. Instead of turning on the TV after dinner, we’ll go walk outside with our families. Granted, we’ll be walking to collect candy. But still!

Being physically active outdoors — even for just a few minutes — can boost people’s moods. This is important to remember as October ends and November begins. We’re coming into the dark, cold months (at least in the northern hemisphere). It’s easy to hibernate. But committing to get outside for just 20 minutes a day (as this Alaska family did!) can make the dark, cold months more tolerable.

It doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Walk your kids to the bus stop and wait with them. Play hopscotch or ride bikes if it’s in your own driveway.

If you normally surf the web for a few minutes after eating lunch at your desk, get up, go outside, and walk around the block instead. You’ll return with more energy than you’ll get from reading headlines.

Sometime in mid-afternoon, go outside to take a “smoke break.” Only don’t smoke. Enjoy the sun before it sets (which is going to happen at about 4:30 p.m. by mid-November around here).

If you often pick up your kids at school, try parking and walking to get your children instead of getting in the car line (provided this is an option at your school).

Invest in outdoor exercise gear. I really dislike running on the treadmill, so I’m trying to stretch the number of days I can run outside. With any luck, I’ll be able to hit 20 minutes every day this winter as well.

How do you sneak in outdoor activity, especially as the days turn dark and cold?



5 thoughts on “Want to be happier? Go outside

  1. Walking after a meal also increases insulin sensitivity, which means your blood sugar doesn’t spike as much. A short brisk walk after lunch or dinner can do great things for blood sugars–I always recommend walking after meals to my patients.

    1. @Gillian – great point! It was such a nice night for walking last night. I got an extra 3000+ steps after dinner, and the kids got tired out, which was awesome.

  2. Every year, I tell myself that I’ll be an outdoor runner in the winter, but it’s just so hard! I live in the DC area, so winters are relatively mild (often in the 40s), so I feel like I should be able to deal with this. Outdoor running is so much easier for me to fit into my schedule with little kids (vs the gym, etc) so I want to make it work. Do you have any cold weather running gear recommendations?? I think (hope!!) that might help me actually become a winter runner…at least on the relatively warm days.

    1. @Sara – DC should be doable! Cold itself isn’t bad (and I’d say that 40s is really PR weather) – it’s usually the precipitation that makes it difficult to run outside, both during the snow/sleet itself and then when there’s ice on the ground. My running buddy Jane slipped on ice and broke her arm last year — it is serious stuff.
      When that’s not the case, I usually run with Polartec-type fleece pants. I know that lots of running clothes companies make wind resistant pants, but I personally like fuzziness in my winter wear. It feels nice to pull it on (even if it can get sweaty…). I wear a base warm layer – I have an Under Armour spandex-type base layer, and then I have a New Balance jacket that is marketed to runners (finger holes, venting, etc.) but any wind resistant jacket should work.
      Then – key! Gloves, headband to cover my ears, and if it’s cold enough, one of those loops that functions as a scarf. Breathing in cold air makes me miserable, so having an option to warm the air in the scarf is really helpful.
      When I’ve done races in cold weather I put those hot pack things in my pockets. So I have the option to warm my hands. My hands get really cold and numb easily.

  3. When I lived in Scandinavia, I always walked 20 minutes outside after lunch, when it was brightest. I did this at least between the dates that time was changed (October to like March?), and I also exercised more. It made the darkness bearable!

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