If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution about physical activity, you’re not alone. Many Canadians are making resolutions, and most are focused on moving more. Despite the best intentions, it can be difficult for people to maintaining New Year’s goals; in fact, almost half fail to reach their resolution. There are several reasons for this, and one is that physical activity goals are difficult to achieve, regardless of the time of year.
As researchers in the fields of behavioral medicine, physical activity, and outdoor recreation, we have some ideas on how to make those resolutions stick.
Try changing up your physical activity and making it fun and enjoyable. Research shows that physical activity adherence is improved when you mix things up and choose an activity that fills your cup.
One way to increase variety and fun might be to choose outdoor physical activities. And it seems Canadians (with and without chronic illnesses) want to do outdoor activities, especially since Covid-19 pandemic.
Taking your physical activity outside has additional benefits. We have found that a single walk on the trail can reduce participants’ reported anxiety levels and that after eight weeks of hiking twice a week, stress is reduced. We also know that people who engage in physical activity outdoors hold on better and longerand maybe work harder than when exercising indoors.
This may be partly explained by shifting attention outward, to the environment, rather than to internal bodily sensations, which makes exercise easier.
In a recent study currently under peer review, we (Thomson and Lesser) found that people with both low and high functional capacity (a measure of aerobic fitness) were able to perform hikes of varying difficulty. Those who were less fit simply slowed down so they could complete the same hike at the same level of effort as their fit counterparts.
This suggests that outdoor physical activity, such as hiking, is doable from a fitness perspective and is perceived as easier.
The great outdoors in winter
If you live in a four-season climate, you might be wondering how to get physically active outdoors in a Canadian winter.
First, if you’re just getting started, determine if you’re ready to move more. You can try an online assessment like the Get an active questionnaire to see if you should talk to your doctor first.
Then try some of these tips and considerations:
1. Find a support system
Research has shown that social support can promote sustained physical activity behaviorand can take on even more importance when the activity moves outdoors.
2. Dress in layers
Overdressing is always better than underdressing, and wool is your best bet to reduce humidity and retain heat. Make sure you’re covered from head to toe – this means wearing a scarf to help warm incoming air when temperatures drop.
3. Have a plan B
Unfortunately, depending on where you live, it can be too cold or freezing to be outside. In this case, take a break and move it a little inside. This way you can continue your active lifestyle and build some excitement about getting back outside when the weather improves.
4. Safety first
When it gets slippery outside, make sure you have proper footwear. We love snow cleats that can be put on your shoes to improve your grip. You can also consider using walking sticks to improve your balance and reduce the risk of falls.
Although you may not feel as hot and sweaty as you did in the warmer months, you are still losing water and need to stay hydrated.
6. Make it part of your day
Find different ways to incorporate the outdoors into your daily activities! Did you know that shoveling snow counts as intense physical activity? Be the neighbor snow shoveler – just make sure you’re warmed up and not going too hard. If you like to ride your bike to work, try fat tires on your bike. They increase your traction on snow and ice.
If that sounds a bit too tiring, you can always park further away at work, school, or the grocery store to add a few steps to your day, or consider taking a quick walk outside on your break. breakfast.
7. Light it up
With the days ending so early, it can be difficult to get physically active before sunset. A headlamp will allow you to go out early or after dark. Just make sure you’re somewhere safe (and maybe bring someone from your support system with you).
8. Try something new
This is the perfect time to get out of your routine. Have you ever tried snowshoeing, winter hiking or cross-country skiing? Maybe now is the time. Don’t have any equipment? Consider borrowing from a friend, renting from your local recreation center, or buying second-hand equipment from a sports dealer.
9. Enjoy the tranquility
Winter outdoor experiences tend to be quieter and include more expansive terrain with different sounds, wildlife, and color experiences. Try to enjoy it and notice how you feel.
We hope you will try taking it outside to enjoy the benefits of our beautiful Canadian winters. Who knows, maybe you’ll even increase the likelihood of sticking to those hard-to-keep New Year’s resolutions!