Friday, January 23, 2015

The Benefits of Winter Hiking

   While we do not always love living in New England and enjoy the cold weather as much as probably should we do try to make an effort to get outside whenever we can.  Even in the winter we'll go sledding, enjoy breakfast outside watching the sunrise, or have a snowball fight.  Today we decided to go hiking.  We've been hiking in the deep winter snow before and I remember that time so fondly that I was hoping to sort of recreate that today.  Even though there was no snow today we did have lots of ice and sunny skies so I figured that was a start.  There are many benefits to hiking and even hiking in the winter.



  • Hiking in the winter really helps fight off cabin fever.  We can only stay locked up together in the house for so long before we feel like we're going just a little bit crazy and hiking is a great way to get out.
  • It's a great way to exercise together! In fact winter hiking burns more calories than hiking at other times of the year because the body is working hard just to keep itself warm when it's cold outside. 
  • Helps build up the body's immune system.  Being in nature, drinking in fresh oxygen and getting away from all the stale recycled air that circulates through the buildings in winter helps strengthen the body's immune system.
  • Hiking has been shown to lead to an increase in creativity by as much as 50%!  Just make sure to leave cell phones put away.  It's that break from technology and the enjoyment of the beauty around that gives the brain a boost.  The longer the hike the better the benefits.
  • Hiking reduces stress, reduces heart disease, and decreases hypertension.  
  • Anyone that can walk can hike.  Hiking doesn't require any special skills so it's a relatively easy form of exercise.  
  • Hiking is free (or nearly free; some parks require a small per car payment but most do not).
  • Other than a good pair of shoes and some warm winter gear (which most New Englanders already have as a necessity) there is no special gear needed.
  • Hiking through all seasons (including winter), especially if hiking the same trails, shows the progression of the woods.  In winter it's easier to see animal tracks, birds' nests, and further into the forest with the undergrowth covered or dead. There is great variety in hiking even when hiking the same trail over and over again.
  • Hiking allows my family time to really connect.  Many times my kids claim that hiking is boring but we spent so much time talking and really getting to know one another when we're out in nature together.  
  • Winter hiking is not as crowded.  Not many people hike in winter and we get to have the woods to ourselves.
  • Winter hiking tires out kids and adults alike and allows for a better night's sleep. 

   Today was a bit chilly but it was such a sunny day that I just couldn't resist the allure of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.  Oh how I have missed our nature walks and hikes!  We had a great time exploring the woods in winter.  The boys stopped and played with some thin ice that had formed over moving water.  They chipped away at it with some sticks and watched the pieces float away.  They watched as they forced new air bubbles under the ice and by the end of the hike they were throwing sticks javelin style to see who could throw the farthest, who could make their sticks stand up straight, and who could trap the most air under the ice.  We spotted a beaver den and noted a huge tree nearby where we could see beaver teeth marks.  Alec and Evan made up a game while we were walking and assigned animals to be part of each element-- eagle for air, deer for forest, gopher for Earth, etc.  It combined their love of Pokemon with their love of animals.  I think it might have been based loosely on Alec's Spirit Animals book but Evan was the one that came up with the idea so I might be wrong.









 
      Ready to try your own winter hike?  Here is an article with some great tips for winter hikes.

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2 comments :

  1. This is great! My family loves to go hiking and we are moving to New Hampshire this summer. I have missed the winters since we moved from the east coast to Arizona and am looking forward to the cold again. I will definitely be going winter hiking next year. Thank you for sharing!

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