Advantages of outside recreation throughout winter

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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – While you may dream of having fun on warm, sunny days, spending time outdoors in winter can benefit your physical and mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity “can improve your brain health, control weight, reduce your risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to perform everyday activities.”

The thaw in January lures people outdoors

During the winter months, when the days are shorter, some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression. One of the treatments is light therapy, which involves going outside on a sunny day.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife encourages state residents to get outside and enjoy the natural beauty of winter while getting the exercise and fresh air they need. You don’t have to be out long to experience the mental and physical benefits.

First, you should dress appropriately for the weather. This includes warm wool or fleece socks, waterproof winter boots for cold temperatures, a hat, gloves and a scarf or face mask. Wear layers like a thermal shirt, flannel shirt, sweater, and windproof coat or jacket. Light snow pants or thermal leggings under the pants help to keep your legs warm. Bring sunglasses to protect your eyes from the wind and the bright sun. Apply sunscreen to your face.

Don’t feed wild animals in Massachusetts this winter

The most basic activity is walking. Go to a local park or trail. It doesn’t have to be a day-long adventure. Only 30-60 minutes walk is an advantage. If there is snow, try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or tobogganing.

Some other things to do outdoors in winter: animal identification, bird watching and ice fishing. And bring your camera to capture the beauty of the winter landscape.

Bring snacks and water and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Be adventurous and find new areas to explore. MassWildlife manages nearly 230,000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) that provide habitat for wildlife and a place for people to explore natural landscapes (there are no maintained trails). WMAs are open to the public for hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Use MassWildlife’s Lands Viewer to find a property near you. Additionally, Massachusetts has over 150 state parks to choose from.