Stay active in winter Take the Winter Fun Bingo Challenge
By Christel Peters
Black Hills State Univerity
December 22, 2017
SPEARFISH, S.D – It’s cold outside. Winter in the Midwest can make it hard to find the motivation to stay active outdoors. Why should you leave the comfort of a warm couch and pajamas to play outside?
Studies have shown that people who spend time outdoors improve their short-term memory and concentration, find relief of stress and mental fatigue, reduce levels of inflammation and boost the immune system, and improve mental health.
“Playing outdoors” can be as simple or challenging as you choose. Making plans with a friend can keep you accountable and more apt to follow through. Students at Black Hills State University have the opportunity to join clubs, groups, or organizations that inspire them to try new outdoor activities. There are a variety of ways that are free, inexpensive, or a worthwhile investment to “play” outside for college students and adults, alike.
Go for a walk or just sit outside
A simple walk in a park, around campus, or on nearby sidewalks are an easy and free way to enjoy the benefits of the outdoors. Challenge yourself to stay out for a specific amount of time or go a certain distance a few times a week. Or, simply take a warm beverage and sit outdoors while you enjoy it. You can gaze at the stars at night or enjoy the touch of the warm sun while breathing in the crisp, fresh air. Just 30 minutes will revive your spirit Discover local wildlife
Find a spot and look up and around you. Birding is an entertaining way to discover nature. Identify animal tracks (or even scat) and see how many varieties you can find. Not all wildlife hibernates in the winter!
Go for a hike
Trails that are designated for winter hiking are a great way to immerse yourself in nature. Winter makeovers keep the hiking scenery unique and interesting. *Be sure to follow winter trail etiquette; do not hike on groomed cross-country trails or on muddy, eroding land.
Turn that fluffy stuff into works of art! Build a snowman, create a snow fort, or attempt an ice sculpture. If you have milk and sugar on hand, make some snow ice cream or snow candy. Use your imagination and create your own fun to show to the world!
Buy a sled or make one yourself and find a snowy hill!
Visit an ice rink
Try ice skating! Don’t own ice skates? Buy them second-hand or rent them from a local rink or outdoor gear group. Take advantage of a large patch of ice and play hockey with sticks, a flat rock, and makeshift goals.
Many organizations and state or national parks rent snowshoes or even loan them for free. There are even tutorials that demonstrate how to make your own snowshoes. Using snowshoes can help you with traction and stability when hiking those snow-covered trails and help you burn more calories!
Run in a winter race
Find a 5K or similar running event to participate in. This will keep you motivated to train outside. Plus, they usually end with a celebratory hot cocoa or other fun winter-related goodies!
Buy second-hand or rent cross-country skis and enjoy the thrill of local groomed trails!
If you already own fishing gear this is an inexpensive way to enjoy some outdoors time. If you don’t own your own gear, find a friend to borrow from or buy some second-hand. Many outdoors organizations and state or national parks have gear to rent and can provide the local licenses required for fishing in your area.
Downhill skiing / snowboarding / skinning / snow tubing
Prices vary nationally but there are ways to enjoy ski resorts without breaking the bank. Renting, borrowing, or buying second-hand gear can reduce your cost. Also, find a group of friends and take advantage of group pricing. Some resorts will have special event days with reduced prices or offer discounts to students, military, or seniors.
Yes, you CAN camp in the winter! You don’t have to pack away that tent and sleeping bag when the temperatures drop. Winter camping can be fun if you are prepared. Know your limits and be sure to have the right gear when venturing out to sleep in the winter wonderland.
This sport does require specialty bikes with tires equipped to handle snowy trails. If you are a bike enthusiast, this could be a purchase worth investing in to enjoy biking all year round
ATV or snowmobiling
If you don’t own off-road vehicles yourself, there are places that rent them and the gear required to run them safely.
Does all of this sound interesting, but you are still thinking, “but it’s just TOO COLD…”? Dr. Christine McCart, associate professor of Outdoor Education at BHSU, knows that overcoming barriers is a big challenge for those who are averse to being cold. She suggests to start small and make it fun when preparing to play outdoors in the winter chill. “Just because it’s cold outside does not mean that you will be miserable,” said McCart. “Find your own fun and go within your skillset.”
Some tips for overcoming barriers to getting outdoors:
Dress in layers – base layer, warm clothing, and appropriate outerwear. Avoid cotton if possible (cotton retains moisture) and choose to wear synthetic blends or wool that wick away moisture.
Stay active – movement keeps you warm, take short breaks during activity and keep moving when you begin to feel cold.
Protect your eyes – the ice and snow can create a significant glare from the winter sun. Be sure to wear sunglasses or other protective eyewear.
Stay hydrated – don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Bring a warm beverage in an insulated container as well.
Be creative – cut foam or wool to fit in footwear or wrap your feet in bread bags for an added barrier. Repurpose an old wool sweater into neck scarves, leg or arm warmers, or mittens. Waterproof your shoes with wax.
Keep dry – getting wet in the cold can be deadly. Keep a towel and a spare set of clothing nearby in case you need to change. Don’t blow on your hands to warm them up – your breath is full of moisture and will just make them colder.
Know your limits – check the weather service for any severe weather notices or wind chill advisories. Attempt new adventures with a friend or a group. Keep cell phones close to your body to avoid the battery draining from the cold. Have a spare set of keys in a safe place in case you lose yours. Check in with local forest or park rangers before exploring winter trails. Use attachable treads for footwear to avoid slips and falls.
Make it fun – try to plan an activity that you will enjoy. Give yourself a fun challenge, such as a Winter Bingo competition with friends or a winter bucket list to achieve. Be inspired by others by joining outdoor groups or cheering on the athletes in the Winter Olympics.
Inspired to learn more? Here in Spearfish, there are many resources for anyone who wants to adventure outdoors. BHSU’s Collegiate Outdoor Leadership Program (COLP) rents gear, offers maps and is a source of professional advice about all things outdoors. In addition, the Black Hills National Forest – Northern Hills Ranger Station in Spearfish offers maps and knowledge regarding regulations and licensure for outdoor activities. Other resources include state parks and city recreation offices that offer gear rentals, group activities and valuable advice for outdoor adventurers.
Don’t let the cold stop you from enjoying the outdoors this winter! Challenge yourself, challenge a friend, and find your own winter fun.