Fifteen minutes of outdoor activity per day may prevent sickness, depression and fatigue this winter.

Most Hoosiers enjoy spending time outdoors during spring, summer, and fall seasons. However, when our winter foe returns each year many of us retreat into the warmth of indoors and hunker down awaiting its passing. Reading about adventures in books and watching movies seem very appealing compared to the enemy lurking on the other side of the walls and windows.

But, research indicates that spending as little as fifteen minutes outdoors, even in the coldest of weather, will most often be the preventative measure to avoid depression, illness and fatigue. Fresh air, no matter what season, is a prescription for healthier hearts, lungs, minds and souls.

My son recently returned from a hunting weekend with my brother-in-law and 80 year old father. The trio ventured outdoors five times over a two day period, returning with tales of camaraderie and exploration. They were cold, tired and hungry by nightfall, contrasted by joy, humor and satisfaction of a day well spent. The muzzle loader my son received from my dad on his fourteenth birthday was the catalyst that brought them together creating memories of their hours in the woods that will last forever. Experiencing physical and mental exhaustion from a strenuous day outdoors is healthy. The fatigue of exhilaration always outweighs the fatigue of boredom.

Although at times adversarial, the months of January and February can be the proving ground for health and fitness. Here are a few things to consider:

1. If you participate in a regular cardio workout and the frigid weather forces you inside to the treadmill, insist on spending the first fifteen minutes of your exercise outside, even if you must bundle up.

2. Keeping your New Year’s resolution of walking each day can be tough this time of year. Meet friends outside for the first part and enjoy the rest of the walk in the warm abode of the mall or fitness center.

3. Pack a hot thermos and drive to a local park or downtown area to walk, cross country ski, sled or run. Your car will be close if you need it, plus the change of scenery will be pleasant. Don’t be mentally tricked into thinking that you are the only one odd enough to be out in the elements. You may be surprised how many people have the same toughness level as you do.

4. Our county has many small streams and creeks to walk along — take your camera and capture the beauty of a snowy day. A great foot care product called yaktrax will provide you with better traction for walking or running needs. Yaktrax simply attach to your shoes or boots and can be purchased locally at Wal-Mart for less than $20.00.

Winter dynamics can be difficult, but let’s commit to pray for daily patience and appreciation for the weather that God gives us, knowing that in less than three months (March 20th) spring will arrive!

• Dana Neer is a local coach and fitness enthusiast who contributes a monthly column. He may be reached by e-mail at Neerd@culver.org.

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