I know that getting outdoors is good for my health and my sarcoidosis management. But the deeper we get into winter, the more I try to avoid it.
Much like when I’m battling the hottest days of summer, a nature walk for me now is whatever I see on a brief trek to my car.
But after leaving my car at a repair shop recently, I had a choice to make: wait an hour in freezing temperatures for the next bus or embark on a 35-minute walk home in the cold.
I decided to set off on foot after an emotional sprint through the five stages of grief:
- Denial: Waiting at the bus stop believing the bus would come early.
- Anger: Cursing the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority for only running buses hourly along the route.
- Bargaining: Telling myself that if I started walking, the bus would appear.
- Depression: Sulking that I dressed to be cute, not warm.
- Acceptance: Concluding that a warm bus ride was still an hour away.
Braving mother nature
For the first block, I thought, “This isn’t too bad.” But by the second block I was walking head-on into a stinging wind. I immediately understood why some people get the winter blues and exercise less during winter months.
Ten minutes into my walk, my numb left foot woke up and began stinging in alarm at my decision to brave the elements in sneakers and cotton ankle socks instead of boots and heavy wool socks. That’s about the time the desire for my thermals, heavy winter coat, and insulated gloves — all left at home — set in.
I pushed the thoughts aside and moved forward. That’s when the unexpected happened: I began to feel good.
Embracing mother nature year-round
As the American Heart Association notes, physical activity outdoors boosts immunity during the cold and flu season and offers the sun’s benefits without heat or humidity to contend with. Your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you expend less energy, and the sun’s exposure can ward off seasonal affective disorder, a type of seasonal depression, according to Harvard Health.
My impromptu wintery walk brought more immediate benefits.
Getting my cardio — outdoors
For starters, being cold made me walk faster than I do when it’s warm outside — stiff achy joints and all.
My battle to eat more healthily was also won that morning. I power walked by fast food restaurants with only one thing in mind: getting to the warmth of my home as quickly as possible. Along the way, I saw houses, businesses, and eateries I had never noticed before while zipping by in my car.
When I finally arrived at my front door, I felt better than I did stepping off a treadmill at the end of a workout. I’m sure part of it was because I made it home without my toes and fingers succumbing to frostbite, which felt like a possibility during the walk.
But I also felt invigorated and that I had accomplished something. Walking on a treadmill means starting and ending in the same spot, but an actual walk takes you somewhere.
My journey that morning showed me that just because it’s winter, there’s no reason to give up outdoor walks. Next time, I’ll just be sure to dress appropriately.
Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.