January 12th

The temperature has dropped but that doesn’t mean your level of outdoor time should. During the pandemic, the outdoors – including our yards, parks and sports fields – have become settings for connection with ourselves, one another and nature itself.

Mulligan, or Mo-Mo as we like to call her, knows that getting outside during the winter months is just as important as it was when the weather was fairer. It takes a little more preparation and planning, but there many good reasons not to abandon it. Here are the just X:

Activity boosts immunity. According to MedlinePlus, exercise helps decrease your risk for heart disease, maintains bone health and can help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways.

Cold activities = more calories burned. Being outside in the wintertime requires your body to work harder to keep you warm. Consequently, you burn more calories. Engage in a friendly snowball fight with your kids or take a walk with Fido to the park to rev up your metabolism and have a little fun along the way.

It doesn’t take long. Here’s a bit of good news for cold days. A study from the University of Michigan concluded that spending just 20 minutes in a natural setting reduces the level of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Outdoor time improves mood. Exposure to natural light – even in the shorter days of winter – raises levels of serotonin, the body’s “happy chemical.” Sunlight is also a good way to get a natural dose of vitamin D, which is good for your bones and immune system.

Memory is bolstered. Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study that revealed walking in a natural setting versus an urban one improved recall ability by nearly 20 percent.

Outdoors is a safe place to reconnect. Unplugging from your computer, smartphone and television is important even when it’s cold out and can be accomplished by simply going outside. Epidemiologists agree outside is still the safest place to gather (socially distanced, of course). Add a patio heater or fire pit to your backyard to make it even cozier.

One final note: taking care of your yard in the wintertime is a good way to log some time outside, and it helps prepare it for spring. Just remember if you’re using a snow thrower, chainsaw or other outdoor power equipment to do some of the heavy lifting this year, read the owner’s manual first and abide by all safety precautions.

To learn more about the benefits of spending time outside for overall health and well-being, go to TurfMutt.com.