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The health benefits of being outdoors in the winter.

Sledding Hill at Furnace Run, Brecksville Metro Parks
Sledding Hill at Furnace Run, Brecksville Metro Parks
Lauraine Varrone Myers

C'mon Clevelanders! It's too soon to cry the winter 'blahs!' January in Cleveland is most serene, most beautiful, and there is SO much to do!

There are such wonderful health benefits to being outdoors in the winter! The cold crisp air in the sun does so much for your body, spirit and overall attitude! Clevelanders have a tendency to wish away the winter longing for warmer temperatures that are around the corner. But remember, fitness is a lifestyle, so take advantage of what the area has to offer - even in the winter and boost your positive outlook!

Research indicates key facts to being active outdoors in the winter!!

Outdoor activities are de-stressing and contributes to an overall healthy well being

• Cold air on your body during the winter communicates valuable and appropriate information to your genes so that your body steps up to the demand 

• Being outdoors for at least part of the day helps reset circadian rhythms (circadian rhythms refer to your unique body rhythms of waking and sleeping in sync with the rising and the setting of the sun)

• Balances hormones and promotes weight loss

• Raises metabolism to compensate for your body adjusting to temperature

• An excellent way to strengthen your heart year round as well as increase respiratory response

• Exposure to nature areas increases positive emotions while negative emotions decrease -even those winter blahs

Outdoor activities give people a wonderful sense of connection to the outdoor environment. The benefits of natural light and fresh air serve to not only improve physical health, but also spiritual and emotional health. There is an innate connection to the environment that begins to occur when the body is exposed to the elements. Being outdoors in the winter is simply invigorating and revitalizing!

Here's a perfect place to start! Grab your sled or your saucer and then go grab your friends and your family and head to Furnace Run in the Brecksville Metro Parks. Furnace Run Metro Park runs along Furnace Run Stream, which, by the way, has recently been restored and renovated to protect the aquatic wildlife and fish. Furnace Run includes three miles of trails for hiking and cross-country skiing, or simply a leisurely walk. This park has a perfect sledding hill!

Sledding has so many physical benefits. Besides the fantastic feeling of the cold air on your face, if you weigh 150 lbs, for example, sledding burns approximately 468 in one hour. It is a lot of fun that is free and it makes you laugh, which by the way, laughing doubles your heart rate for about a minute afterward!!

It is absolutely possible to have some winter fun in the sun!! Don't forget your hat to keep in your body heat, gloves or mittens, boots and sunscreen!! Even though it is cold, don't let that fool you into thinking that the sun does not affect you the same as say, walking along the beach on a beautiful summer day. The sun absolutely reflects off of all that beautiful bright white snow and ice back onto your face! So cover up and protect your skin as well as your lips with SPF 15 balm!

Oh! Check out the pavilion at the bottom of this sledding hill!



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