Friday, February 26, 2016
Winter Walks -- Healthy and endorsed by Thoreau
It was Thoreau, the famous New Englander, who wrote fondly of the winter walk. He wrote the "meadow mouse has slept in his snug gallery in the sod," while we people are "crunching crisp snow under our feet," as "feathery flakes" come down. Most of us look at winter weather and think ugh, it's cold and uncomfortable out. It doesn't have to be. And it's especially good if you're out in the sun.
My friend Bud was the first one to point out he went on winter walks during Christmas vacation breaks from school. Winter on the East coast can get pretty darn chilly, and I have to admit my walks have been fairly short when I first tried to do this. Some think wintertime is only for kids, who build snowmen and toss snow balls. As a grownup I've built a snowman (or woman) or two and gotten boots as waterproof as possible for stepping into new or half melted snow. It can be a challenge if there is a layer of ice under the snow as you get older, so I'm sure the snow is more on the crunchy than slippery side.
Dr. Lynn Millar, a Winston-Salem State University professor of physical therapy, points out that especially as you get older -- I've recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis because I twisted my knee badly last year -- it is important to get out and exercise in winter. The sunlight in winter lifts your mood and provides needed Vitamin D, and is really helpful if you are getting corticosteroids, which increase the risk of brittle bones, Millar says. I find just "nature watching," noting the woodpeckers and sparrows and cardinals on the trees, whether the squirrels are up and looking for nuts, and what kind of different shapes the tree limbs form, makes for a worthwhile jaunt outside any time. Try a winter walk sometime.
(A link to more info on winter walks and health: http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/winter-walking-benefits-arthritis/ )