Active Outdoors: The sun stands still but you don’t have to

  • Packed snow trail. If you are lucky, you'll be able to take a winter walk on a packed snow trail. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Solstice Beach Walk That romantic notion of a long walk on a beach with the one you love takes on a different character around the Winter Solstice. Dress warm and enjoy! (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Sunsets come early around the winter solstice, but a winter walk will likely improve your mood and your health around the hectic holidays. Tim JonesEasternSlopes.com

  • Christmas Holly. I once found this American Holly brightening the landscape on a contemplative Christmas morning hike. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

For the Monitor
Monday, December 25, 2017

By the time you read this the shortest day of the year will have passed and the days will be getting incrementally longer. It’s going to take a few days to notice the difference. Solstice is derived from the Latin Sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). But just because the sun stands still at this time of year doesn’t mean you have to.

The solstice has a message for us. For those of you who don’t love winter as much as I do, be patient, summer is coming. For fellow winter lovers, this is your wake-up call. Enjoy it while we have it.

The winter solstice tells us we have reached a symbolic “new yea.” And, like the Roman god Janus, we have a perfect chance to look both at where we’ve been and where we are going.

I know where I’m going – outside to play. What about you? What are you doing for your health and happiness right now?

May I make a suggestion? While you are pondering this, go take a walk. Or, at least, get out in the outdoors, in the fresh air. Preferably in the daylight, which will help alleviate any case of the Winter Blahs. But if you can’t get out during the day, a night walk is also a very good use of your time.

Of course if it’s been snowing where you live or play (as it has been here, as it’s supposed to at this time of year), you might have to put on boots and, maybe, traction aids or even snowshoes. You are going to have to dress for the chill. And if you are walking along roads at night, carry a light so distracted drivers can see you. Don’t let anything stop you, though.

Taking a walk will help you de-stress from the holiday hustle and think more clearly about your current situation. It’s been proven that even gentle exercise improves cognitive skills.

I also believe that getting outdoors enlarges your perspective, so you see everything more clearly. I think that’s why people who get outdoors regularly are happier – they don’t get bogged down in the daily minutia of modern life. Or worry so much about the latest tweet from someone who shouldn’t matter.

Walking while you think, or thinking while you walk, will also help keep you healthier. Again, it’s a scientifically proven fact that people who regularly exercise at moderate levels (a brisk walk counts) for 30-45 minute five times a week get fewer colds than people who don’t.

The beauty of walking is that almost anyone can benefit immediately from it, and can get better at it. If you are truly out of shape, a short walk might be all you can handle. So what? It’s a walk. And if you’re in such good shape that an ordinary walk doesn’t get your heart rate up, congratulate yourself and find a steep hill to walk up. Or carry a heavy backpack. Or run, if you must. Start with wherever you can do today; go farther tomorrow.

Chances are you have some time off over the holidays. Do try to take a long, reflective walk sometime between now and New Year’s Day. Maybe you’ll decide that you can find time in 2018 to get outdoors almost every day, get some exercise and improve the quality of your life. What a great way to step into your future! Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

(Tim Jones is the executive editor of the online magazine EasternSlopes.com and writes about outdoor sports and travel. He can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.)