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I admit that I am not a fan of cold weather. Normally I choose to stay indoors when temperatures dip into the 30s and lower.
However, on my December trip to Edinburgh, Scotland I knew I’d better change my mindset. I didn’t travel to Edinburgh to sit inside my temporary apartment. No. I traveled to Edinburgh to attend the city’s Christmas Market and to explore the city on foot.
It was fun to combine that trip with one of the walks from 52 Ways to Walk, the book I purchased last year.
This is Walk #1, Walk in the Cold.
Why Walk in the Cold?
Some people love the winter season and absolutely enjoy spending time outdoors in spite of the colder temps. In fact, those people feel exhilarated by the brisk air.
I’m not one of those people, or at least, I wasn’t. No, I’m more a snuggle up indoors person waiting for winter to shift into spring.
For many years however, I wanted to explore my favorite city during the holiday season and experience the Christmas Market. I researched the weather in Scotland during December and watched the forecasts on the Weather App. Expected day time temps were expected to hover in the mid 30s with night time lows in the 20s. That’s below average temperatures for Scotland in winter.
I adjusted my attitude about the cold, read Week One, Walk in the Cold in my book and prepared for those low temps by purchasing the proper clothing and outerwear. (Read about the essentials for cold weather that I traveled with HERE.)
I discovered there are benefits that come from spending time in moderately cold temperatures. Check them out.
Cold Reduces Inflammation and Pain
We know this is true. Injuries such sprains respond well to an ice pack. The cold eases painful muscles, joints and tendons while reducing inflammation and swelling. Cold also raises the levels of adiponectin in the body, a protein that combats inflammation.
Cold Increases Fat Burning
The body has stores of brown fat tissue, which is different from white fat. Brown fat burns calories and uses energy, essentially turning calories from food into heat. Cold increases brown fat activity and raises metabolism.
Researchers studying brown fat found that it also contains mitochondria, tiny factories inside the cells that convert food and oxygen into a form of energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP supports all the processes in the body, regulates appetite, improves insulin sensitivity and stops the premature death of cells.
Cold Strengthens the Nervous System
An increase in fat burning modulates the sympathetic nervous system. The colder temps act as a mild workout for the nervous system, which in turns adapts and grows stronger.
The brain functions better as well, during colder temperatures. The brain needs glucose and when glucose is low, the brain becomes sluggish. That’s why we think more clearly when exposed to cold rather than heat. The body uses more glucose to cool down than it does to heat up. Studies found that we think more clearly, decisively and calmly when in cooler temps than we do in warmer temps.
Cold Improves Mental Health
Spending time outdoors, during cold temps, has powerful restorative and revitalizing effects. The cold calms the nervous system while slowing and steadying the heart rate, easing anxiety and stress. We build endurance as well, without requiring the body to work so hard.
Tips for a Walk in the Cold
First, we are talking about walking in moderate cold with temperatures above 0. Anything below that is considered extreme cold and great care should be used when outdoors in those temps.
Dress in layers to keep the body comfortable without sweating. The hands, feet and head cool down first so wear gloves, thick woolen socks, boots and a cap on the head. Make sure boots have adequate tread on them to prevent slipping on ice and snow.
Keep the body hydrated. Carry water or even a warm drink in a thermos. Caffeine, found in coffee and some teas, actually spurs on brown fat activity.
Fuel the body with frequent highly nutritious snacks or small meals. We burn more energy while out in the cold. The body needs the extra fuel.
Walk briskly. We use our arms for balance so keep gloved hands out of pockets. Use a walking stick to navigate slick areas and step sideways on stairs and when going downhill.
My Walk in the Cold
I spent a week in Edinburgh, walking in the cold daily. And you know what? I came to deeply appreciate my cold walks.
I dressed properly. I carried snacks and water. And when necessary, I walked with care in icy places. Every moment spent in that magnificent city was wonderful and the cold didn’t deter me at all.
My daily routine included breakfast in my top floor apartment (Check out CoDE Boutique Hostel), a morning spent exploring, lunch at a vegan restaurant and then more walking until dark, which occurred about 3:30 in the afternoon. Yes, the Scottish days are extremely short during winter. I ate dinners that I prepared in my apartment.
Some days I headed back to my apartment shortly after darkness fell. Other days I attended scheduled events such as Christmas in the Botanics at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. And some days I just enjoyed wandering Edinburgh’s cobbled streets after dark, taking photos and marveling over lighted Christmas displays.
My last full day in Edinburgh was the coldest. Temperatures never rose above the low 20s. After days of walking in the cold though, my body acclimated and I like to think my brown fat was firing away! I did well that day, exploring Dean Village, strolling through the Christmas Market and saying goodbyes to beloved places in the city.
I did indeed feel energized and revigorated. And I learned that I can tolerate the cold and not only that, I can enjoy the outdoors in chilly weather.
Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk
If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!
The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.
I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Rain at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.
Do you enjoy walks in the cold?
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