Go outside for a hike or stay in and cuddle on the couch? With weather below 40 degrees, many of us would rather stay indoors than to brave the cold. Studies have shown, however, that going for a brisk walk outdoors can improve brain function and mental focus. Spending time outside can improve your mood to fight winter blues. There's no need to buy fancy gear; just bundle up and get moving!

Recharge your exercise routine

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Start the new year off right by sticking to your fitness goals and exercising outdoors. With plenty of room to run in the woods, trails are significantly less crowded than the treadmills at the gym. Make an adventure out of your workout and travel to a local park to hike or ski. Physical activity can be enjoyable outside even in the snow. Invite friends to hold you accountable for your goals.

More Time Outdoors = More Vitamin D

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Time spent in natural light allows us to feel energized. We are able to soak up vital rays from the sun preventing us from heart attacks and some types of cancer. While we can get supplements of Vitamin D from fatty fish and dairy products, 70 to 80 percent of all the Vitamin D we need comes from the sun. That being said, stop playing video games in your room and get outside!

There's so much to explore

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Though it may be a little more chilly than usual, don't give up on the opportunities to explore new trails, mountains, or parks. If you're with friends or family, consider going on a group bike ride. It's an easy way to burn calories and discover new parts of nature. If it's not windy, watching the sunset and warming up with hot cocoa is always a great idea.

Reduce stress

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Need a break from studying in the library to get some fresh air? Take some time this winter to enjoy the wonders of nature in its pure beauty. Going outdoors is linked to reduce stress and anxiety. Having a change of scenery every once in a while can also stimulate the brain to be more creative.

Connect with those around you

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You don't have to be alone to enjoy spending time outdoors. While no one likes to feel isolated, digital technology has put a barrier on face-to-face communication with our neighbors. Make an effort to invite friends and family to go for a walk in the park or play an outdoor game. Children are more likely to be better problem-solvers if they spend time in nature as well. Getting outside and interacting with others in-person has benefits for all individuals.

Colder temperatures may try and keep us from spending time in nature during the winter months, but there is no excuse to bundle up and go for a leisure walk on a trail. Whether it's skiing, ice skating, or running in the woods, work some outside time into your daily routine.