Maintain going outside regardless of the chilly | Information, Sports activities, Jobs


Despite the lack of snowfall in the southern part of the Upper Peninsula, temperatures will drop significantly in the coming weeks and will remain below or near freezing for the next four months. And as we all know, snow is likely to follow.

The winter months can be challenging for many people, especially when it comes to staying active. The negative correlation between temperatures and activity levels has been termed the “winter slump” by some while others jokingly claim they winter with the bears.

But this drop in activity levels has several explanations.

Thanks to Daylight Saving Time, it now gets dark around 5pm – the same time many people finish their work day. As we spend very little time in the sun, our intake of vitamin D – which helps ensure good bone health – decreases.

Lack of sun exposure can also disrupt the autonomic processes that regulate your sleep patterns. When you go outside and see that it’s dark, your internal clock senses it’s time to rest. This leads to increased production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

The winter season also brings with it a lot of stress and anxiety. From preparing for holiday celebrations to cooking extravagant meals to having a case of the post-holiday blues, it’s normal for people to be down and jaded this time of year.

But I’m here to encourage you to stay active over the coming winter months. Luckily for us, the Upper Peninsula is home to a wealth of outdoor recreation and wilderness areas just waiting to be explored.

Not only are outdoor activities a great way to temporarily unwind from the anxiety that accompanies everyday life, especially around the holiday season, but they are also a great form of exercise and meditation to be enjoyed.

According to a research study published in Nature Scientific Reports, a person’s well-being is greatly enhanced by walking outdoors for two hours a week. That’s only a 20 minute walk every day.

For me, there’s nothing quite like the boost of happiness that comes with a deep breath of fresh air. However, the frigid temperatures that accompany our winters can discourage many from participating in any form of outdoor recreation. But there are many ways to prepare for the cold so you can enjoy your time outdoors.

Depending on the length and difficulty of your outdoor adventure, the best way to physically prepare for the weather can vary. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recommends wearing multiple, thin layers of clothing and appropriate footwear, regardless of the outdoor activity. Remember that you can always take off a layer.

If you’re just going for a walk around the block, you probably don’t need to prepare to wear the right clothes. However, if you’re feeling up to it, there are several trail systems in the area that offer a more wooded experience. These paths vary in length and should be prepared accordingly.

There are some essential items to have with you on all your trail trips, especially longer ones. We hikers call these objects the “10 Essentials.” These essentials include a fair amount of food and water, first-aid supplies, a multi-tool, and fire-starting tools—all of which fit nicely in a hiking backpack.

I get it. It might seem silly to pack these items, especially if you’re just going for a mile-long hike in the woods. But Mother Nature can be quite unpredictable. It is always better to prepare too well than to prepare too little.

And given that it’s getting dark much earlier now, be sure to have a headlamp or flashlight with you if you plan on hiking in the afternoon hours.

Finally, any type of mapping device is essential for a hassle-free adventure. While I keep a physical map as a backup, I primarily use an app called AllTrails to track myself and my outdoor activities. AllTrails automatically locates hiking trails around you and provides you with a map of the selected trail that automatically locates your position in real time. It’s a great tool that gives you peace of mind to explore a new wilderness area.

Not sure where to start? Both Escanaba and Gladstone have walkable downtown areas. I enjoy following the walking paths that run through both of the city’s parks, although the wind coming off the lake gets a lot colder as temperatures continue to drop.

When I’m looking for a good hike, I head to the Days River Trail System in Gladstone and do a few laps. While cross-country skiers will be present in the winter months, there is usually enough space for snowshoe and hiking enthusiasts. Remember to stay away from the cross-country ski trail – the track they ski on.

But if you want to escape the area for the weekend, Marquette is packed with outdoor recreation. One of the many reasons I chose Northern Michigan University is the easy access to hiking trails in the winter.

Adventure awaits you and me during the winter months, so be sure to get outside and experience it.

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Andie Balenger is from Gladstone and currently attends Northern Michigan University. Her column focuses on college life and appears in the Daily Press on Thursdays.

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