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New Year’s resolutions to be more active are a curious thing: they’re made at the worst possible time to be active outdoors.

At least it’s perceived as the worst possible time: In reality, winter is among the best times to active outside.

Think about it: Would you rather walk three miles on the local greenway in the 90-degree heat of summer or on a 40-degree winter day? You can only strip down so much to deal with heat; with cold weather, you can add layers and stay comfortable into the low 20s — and how often does it get that cold during the day in North Carolina, anyway?

Is there enough daylight? 

The dearth of daylight is also seen as a deterrent to playing outdoors. Sure, on a 60-degree day who doesn’t feel robbed when night takes over at 5:30? That still leaves 10 hours of daylight to play with. That’s plenty on the weekends and, frankly, doesn’t affect your ability to sneak out for a 30-minute walk over lunch during the workweek. Plus, as of Dec. 21, our allotment of daily daylight has been on the rise. We had just 9 hours and 43 minutes of sun on Dec. 21; a little more than a month later we’re up to 10 hours and 13 minutes, a gain of more than half an hour!

Another reason for getting outdoors: you likely have the time. If you have kids, this is one time of year when they — and consequently, you — typically have fewer commitments. If you’re a sports junkie, your weekends aren’t as consumed by your addiction: your commitment to your favorite ACC basketball team is contained to three hours on the weekend, a far cry from your day-long Saturday college football binge, followed by a Sunday of NFL.

Is the winter landscape worth it? 

Now, some folks have a knee-jerk reaction to associate winter with a bleak, gray landscape. In some parts of the country, this is true, but not here. In Raleigh, for example, the sun shines 217 days a year. That sun works a special magic on a winter landscape stripped to its essence: views abound from ridgelines otherwise obscured by foliage, while the lack of green and crisp winter air turn up the volume in a natural world that has so much to tell you.

Perhaps most importantly, you have the motivation to get out, to escape. While the holidays can be stressful, there’s also a certain relaxed atmosphere that prevails. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s there are parties, events, food, distractions. For most, work takes a backseat: some businesses even close for a week or two. But then comes the harsh reality of Jan. 2. For many of us, the next opportunity for significant time off doesn’t come until — gulp! — summer. That’s at least five months, five months when you’ll desperately need the sanity-saving relief that quality time in nature can offer.

This misperception of winter is why so many resolutioners wind up in the gym. After a couple weeks of being tied to a treadmill under fluorescent lights is it any wonder most resolutions don’t last through January?
Stick with the gym, but work a healthy dose of outdoors into your winter routine. It will brighten your prospects for a healthier 2017.

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We’ll be back in a few days with tips on how to dress for playing outside in the cold. In the meantime, here are some ways to find your perfect winter hiking escape. 

Joe Miller

About Joe Miller

Joe Miller is the author of four books on outdoor adventure, and writes about health, fitness and the outdoors. Read his blog at GetGoingNC.com.