Explore the Benefits of Winter Hiking

We’ve finally made it to winter, the star of Prescott’s revered four-season climate, and as many of us know there’s no reason to curb our quintessential outdoor activity — hiking — when our temps drop into the 40s and below.

It can be more enjoyable and in some ways safer than hiking in baked-boulder-strewn canyons during the height of summer. Advantages to winter hiking include: 

More calories burned — Studies have found winter temperatures do cause people to expend more energy just to stay warmer by turning unhealthy “white fat” into “brown fat” that’s more efficient at burning calories, though some scientists argue working out in the cold creates enough heat on its own to cancel out any “extra” effort your body has to put in at rest.

Enhanced endurance — Any kind of exercise creates heat, which the body must counteract in hot or humid weather to keep your internal temperature from overheating. Since this isn’t a concern in cold weather your body has more energy to keep you moving, so you can keep up your pace longer and expand your workout time.

Gentler on your joints — Walking on snow, even when it’s compacted, is easier than most other surfaces on your joints. This can hike up your hiking fitness so you’re in better shape for spring and summer treks.

Fights SAD — Seasonal affective disorder slows down many people in the winter due to less exposure to light and sun, but spending time in whatever sunlight is available in the winter months has clear benefits for counteracting the winter blues, not to mention helping vitamin D levels.

A bright side — If you’re not a winter person, getting out and hiking in the winter teaches you that it doesn’t have to mean the end of your outdoor existence. The right clothes, fuel and training can help you discover the pleasure of bracing winter breezes, the beauty and fun factor of snow, and the full-body workout of ice skating, among other winter treats. Simply getting outside will help you acclimate to the cold.

Jeremiah Scheffer |  Photo: Blushing Cactus Photography