February 21st, 2020

Viva Vitality: Step outside and enjoy what it has to to offer

By Lisa Doyle on January 17, 2020.

lisa.doyle@ahs.ca

Winter is in full swing here in southern Alberta, and there are many fantastic winter activities to partake in with the entire family. It is easy to get caught up in our electronic devices, and thanks to the busy schedules people have they can forget about being active in nature.

A study comparing the effects of exercise indoors vs outdoors on physical and mental wellbeing found that participants experienced more joy and fulfilment being in nature compared to exercising indoors (Thompson et al., 2011). Additionally, the study found that “exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy. Why not enjoy the beautiful sunny days we get here in Southern Alberta, grab your family and friends, and head outdoors for a fun adventure?

Are you running out of ideas on how to stay physically active outdoors? Here is a list of family-friendly winter activities to enjoy together. Going for a walk is an easy way to get outside and get some physical activity. When there is enough snow, suggest a snowman building contest, allowing your family to showcase their creative side.

Many parks such as Elkwater Provincial Park and Medicine Hat’s Police Point Park offer rentals for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. In Lethbridge, if you have a library card you can borrow items from their Physical Literacy collection to take outside and have fun.

Another favourite family activity is tobogganing and ice skating. With so many options, there is always something to do outdoors this winter. Partaking in outdoor activities has many benefits, but it is also important to remember to stay safe to prevent injuries.

Here are some tips to help you and your family stay safe this season.

Look First: Plan and prepare before you start your activity. Check the weather. Children should stay inside if the temperatures dip below -25 C (Parachute Canada, 2019). These temperatures can cause the skin to freeze in minutes. Additionally, if you plan on ice skating or tobogganing, check the conditions. Ice should be a minimum of 15 cm thick for walking/skating and 20 cm for skating games (Parachute Canada, 2019). If you plan on tobogganing, look out for any branches, trees, stumps, or any other hazards, which could cause harm.

Wear the Gear: Dress appropriately. To prevent injuries such as frostbite, make sure you dress warmly. Parachute Canada (2019) suggests wearing clothing made from tightly woven fabrics, which help retain heat, such as wool. Depending on the activity, make sure you wear the proper gear for the right activity. If you are heading out ice skating, make sure you have a hockey helmet, and if you are going tobogganing, it is recommended to wear a ski helmet.

Get Trained: Take lessons and start slow. If you are new to an activity, ask for help, practice, so that you can reduce your chance for injury.

Buckle Up: Ensure all your gear is done up correctly. The equipment will only work if it is worn correctly.

Seek Help: Remind children to report any injuries, and to seek medical attention if needed.

For more information on how to stay safe this winter, check out the following Parachute Canada links. https://parachute.ca/en/injury-topic/winter-outdoor-safety

Winter sports and recreation

Lisa Doyle is a Health Promotions Facilitator with Alberta Health Services. She can be reached via email at lisa.doyle@ahs.ca

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