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Winter Recreation—Great for the Body and the Soul

It’s winter, and for many that means curling up on the couch in front of a fireplace with a good book in hand and a blanket covering one’s body. But winter is also a magical time to be outdoors and get some exercise to work off all the sweets eaten over the holidays while taking in the beauty of snow-covered trees and mountains, frozen lakes, and ground blanketed in soft, white powder.

Getting outdoors in the winter is also healthy for you, so long as you’re prepared for the cold weather. Spending time outdoors can help combat seasonal effective disorder (SAD), boost your immune system, strengthen your heart, improve lung capacity, aid in vitamin D production and stronger bones, burn calories, strengthen muscles, and gain other mental and physical benefits. There are several fun, winter activities you can do outdoors in the snow that will improve your health.

A fun, relatively inexpensive winter activity that provides a great workout and is easy to learn is snowshoeing. Like hiking, its summer counterpart, snowshoeing gets you off the beaten path and into an ethereal realm bathed in white. You don’t even have to buy snowshoes. You can rent them or take a snowshoeing tour through several companies. Crater Lake is my favorite place to snowshoe in Oregon. The lake is beautiful at any time of the year, but in the winter with the rim covered with over a hundred inches of snow, it looks breathtakingly gorgeous. Other fun places to snowshoe include Clear Lake near Santiam Junction, Trillium Lake, and Maxwell Butte. Feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in learning more about snowshoeing.

Staying safe outdoors in the winter is paramount to prevent frostbite or hypothermia. When playing or exercising outdoors, always remember to layer on clothes. As you play or exercise, your body produces heat. If you have too many layers of clothing on, you can find yourself overheating and sweating. Sweating will make you feel colder. As temperatures cool, you can then add layers back on to keep you warm. When I am out snowshoeing or skiing, I always wear a base layer, something like wicking thermal long johns, followed by waterproof pants, a fleece or wool shirt, warm fleece pullover, and finally a medium-weight jacket. This has kept me warm for hours in 20˚ F weather. As I start to warm up, off comes either the fleece pullover or jacket. NEVER wear cotton, because cotton when wet takes an extremely long time to dry and can lead to hypothermia. Warm socks, a hat or earmuffs that covers the ears, mittens or gloves, as well as a good pair of sunglasses are also necessities.

And finally, don’t forget to bring your pooch along. Not only do most dogs enjoy the snow, but bringing a dog along will help motivate you to get outdoors. Just remember a few tips to keep your dog safe in the snow. Your dog may need booties and a warm vest depending on the breed to keep them from suffering hypothermia or frostbite as well—this is certainly true for short-haired dogs.

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