As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, it’s tempting to curl up inside by a fire or exercise indoors. Research shows, however, that outdoor exercise can boost your physical and mental wellness during the winter.

To encourage healthy time in the outdoors this winter, the Barrington Land Conservation Trust is offering a series of “Winter Wellness Walks” at conservation properties throughout Barrington.

“These walks will be different than our traditional guided walks,” says Land Trust Executive Director Cindy Elder. “Since it’s cold outside, we’re going to keep moving at a moderate pace rather than stopping to explain the history and ecology of the property. These will be informal walks where we can get to know each other and just enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.”

Walks will be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 9 am between Wednesday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 23.

All of the walks will be one hour or less over gentle terrain, with occasional moderate inclines or uneven ground.

Locations will include Sowams Woods, St. Andrews Farm, Osamequin Nature Preserve, Doug Rayner Wildlife Refuge, Allin’s Cove and other locations, all of which are open to the public year-round.

To register for any of the upcoming Winter Wellness Walks, visit our Events page. All ages are welcome, and there is no cost to attend. Registrants will be notified in the event of weather cancellations.

Getting Outside Can Make You Feel Better

The benefits of spending time outside during the winter are many. Sunlight triggers the response the body needs to create vitamin D, which is essential for normal growth and bone development. Research has shown that vitamin D also can play a role in mood regulation.

According to Jason Hunziker, MD, chief of the division of adult psychiatry at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, “Some studies have shown that being outside triggers physiologic responses in our body that help reduce stress levels. Some feel that we have a strong connection to nature because of the way we evolved from living in nature for survival and that helps us feel peaceful in that setting.”

Benefits of exercise can include increased self-esteem, improved cognitive function, and reduced physical and emotional stress. According to Hunziker, while you are exercising, well-oxygenated blood is being pumped to your brain, which increases the release of neurochemicals, which in turn decreases the release of stress-related chemicals. Exercise can also improve neurotransmitter levels and increase the ability of the nervous system to respond from both internal and external stress.

“The beauty of the outdoors is inspiring in every season,” says Elder. “In the winter, you can experience the beauty of a first snow and listen to the sounds of animals foraging for food. You can photograph ice-sheathed branches glistening in the sun and observe the changes in salt marshes and lakes as the temperature drops. We hope these Winter Wellness Walks will encourage people to enjoy the public trails in Barrington all through the year.”

The Barrington Land Conservation Trust has preserved nearly 300 acres of open space in perpetuity for the benefit of the public.