10 Reasons to Get Out, Even When the Weather Outside is Frightful

(Photo: Karl Weatherly/CORBIS)(Previously published in The Sewanee Mountain Messenger. Reproduced by permission.)Getting outside is always harder at year’s end. The double whammy of wretched weather and the social functions piling up on the calendar like snowdrifts keeps us busy, overbooked, and filled with yummy holiday food.However, there are still reasons to get out there. Behold, the very first Outside In Listicle!1. I’ll start out with a very simple equation: indulging and exercising > indulging and not exercising.2. It’s a known fact that humans burn more calories when it’s cold. Studies have shown that people expend five times more energy when shivering than when they are resting.3. Calories in a Venti Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with Nonfat Milk, without whipped cream: 325. Required to burn 325 calories: 90 minutes of walking.4. There’s a good chance that your gym will be closed for part of the holiday. Time to vary that workout routine: run hills instead of the Stairmaster, hike a fire lane in lieu of the elliptical machine.5. You’ll probably have a few days off from work in the next two weeks. That means you don’t have to squeeze getting outside into your usual schedule. Take advantage of the slack in your day.6. Calories in a 6-ounce slice of fruitcake: 660. That’s 101 minutes of cycling.7. As much as we love friends, family, and co-workers, the social demands of the holidays can create a bit of claustrophobia. ’Tis the season for elbowing your way around buffets, sharing room on couches, hovering around fireplaces. What better cure than to put on a couple of layers and step out the back door for a bit?8. Calories in one cup of eggnog: 344. (And that’s without any holiday cheer added, if you catch my drift.) You’ll want to enjoy 39 minutes of jogging to compensate.9. If you do step outside, early in the morning or after sunset, the winter sky is often piercingly clear. You can pick out a star and imagine that it’s shining extra brightly, like the one in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or even that it’s the same star the Wise Men followed.10. You have the chance to mark that exhilarating moment when the axial tilt causes the days to begin lengthening once more. On December 21st or thereabouts, celebrate the solstice in your own way. There are many historical examples to follow: the Vikings, the Celts, the ancient Romans all celebrated the world’s pivot toward light and warmth.For me, outside is where a sense of gratitude happens most readily and deeply. Joy tends to come to me immediately when I see the crescent moon in the dawn sky, or hear a stream run beneath a footbridge. May we all be gifted with the possibilities of gratitude and joy during this season.