January to March are essentially “non-months”. Filled (or rather, unfilled) with diets, new exercise regimes, and unflattering puffer jackets, each dark day drags into the next with gruelling monotony. Snow and cold weather got Sinatra’s Christmas invitation a tad late, bursting in on the great festive hangover with unwelcome surprise. We lock ourselves inside and flick through our Instagram photos from summer, willing ourselves back to a time when legs were smoothly shaven, abbs protruded from flat stomachs like a six-pack of eggs, and sunlight glinted off white(ned) teeth. OK, maybe we’re not all striving to become The Only Way Is Essex material. Even so, many of us do spend the winter months effectively in hibernation.
But is it really a good idea to lock ourselves away during the colder months, praying for it to all be over?
Well, as someone who’s obsessed with eating outdoors, i.e. going for picnics, you can probably guess my answer to that question. With fewer daylight hours – and daylight hours that are for most spent inside a dark, dingy office – alongside our desire to sit beside the heater (rather than work up our own heat), it’s more important than ever that we force ourselves outside. But why is it so important?
I’ve already spoken briefly about why it’s so great to be drinking in the fresh, chilly air of winter in this post, but I feel that fresh air deserves a little more fleshing out.
So, here are six, un-ignorable, scientifically proven reasons why it’s a good idea to wrap up and get out this winter!
Staying indoors in an unventilated room (do you have your window open in winter? I didn’t think so) means that the air can actually become contaminated. You may think flus and colds are an inevitable fact of winter, but they don’t have to be quite so inevitable. Spending more time outdoors means that your nasty germs can dissipate more easily and are less likely to come into contact with surfaces that other people are likely to touch in the near future. By staying in un-ventilated spaces, you’re also exposing yourself to dust and mould, and for anyone who has emphysema, bronchitis, or asthma, this can most definitely make matters worse.
You don’t have to be a professional skier, a marathon runner, or an ice skater to enjoy the outdoors in winter. Just going for a casual stroll along a windswept beach, or rollicking around in the snow (more likely slushy mud where the southern England is concerned), are great in not only getting you your dose of fresh air, but also a good bout of exercise. Outdoor activities don’t have to be tortuous, you know.
Fresh air is good for your mental health! In fact, my mother would probably rule fresh air above almost every other means towards maintaining happiness in an increasingly stressful world. Sunlight (and there’s some even in the January greyness) causes the body to produce vitamin D, a vital vitamin in protecting against depression. Not only that, there has been cause to suggest that the chemicals called phytoncides that are emitted by plants and trees reduce stress. Ah, so THAT’S why I always feel so relaxed after a woodland walk.
I’m sure you’ve all felt energised after a little fresh air. Well, now there’s scientific proof to say that your energy levels are increased by 90% when you spend time in the great, natural outdoors. Inhaling fresh air clears your lungs, which allows deeper breaths and thereby increases the oxygen circulating around your body, essentially meaning that you feel more alive and energetic.
Strengthens the immune system
Lemsip and cough sweets can stay where they are this winter, because there’s no need to fish them out from the back of your medicine cabinet if you’re getting in your fresh air. Walking through forests in particular has been associated with increasing your white blood cells, the cells that fight illnesses, and even has a name in Japan which translates as “Forest Bathing”.
Improves focus and mood
Having trouble with an essay? Feeling like technology is actually messing up your brain? Perhaps you need a breath of fresh air. A neurological study concluded that mood and attention was significantly improved amongst individuals exposed to natural environments.
So whether you decide to go full steam ahead and blast through the wintry landscape on a run, choose to walk to work, or go for a little picnic in the countryside, it’s a good idea to give fresh air a little of your time, in exchange for a whole host of benefits.