On avoiding cabin fever

Posted: Friday, January 07, 2011

During this time of year, the long nights and "Christmas letdown" combine to cause many of us to succumb to cabin fever. I've found that the least expensive way of avoiding this malady is to get out of the cabin and go for a walk.

You don't have to go far. A 15-minute walk will usually take you out of the doldrums.

Anyone can go for a walk on a sunny day, but it's not so easy when it's dark and stormy, or when the roads and trails are icy. It's on those days, when we're most susceptible to cabin fever, that we most need to get outside.

When you're properly dressed, there's no such thing as bad weather. It's important to keep dry and to wear loose-fitting layers. If you're going very far, carry a day pack containing extra clothing, a survival kit and other things to help you feel more confident and comfortable. But if you're only taking a quick cruise through the neighborhood, keep it simple.

"Gearing up" for walking costs practically nothing. For warmth and comfort, I prefer heavy-duty sweat pants. When it's really cold, I'll wear long underwear under the sweats. To me, a longtime "senior," wearing jeans outdoors in winter is like wearing shorts. In most weather, I wear a long-sleeved fleece shirt under a light-weight down jacket. For short walks, I wear gloves. For longer walks, mittens. I have a wool cap that I like to wear on mild days. On days cold enough that I want my ears covered, I wear a wool stocking cap. Unless I'm walking at night, I always take my sunglasses. When roads and trails are icy, I'll wear ice walkers.

Walking not only prevents and cures cabin fever, but it's great exercise and a good way to burn off calories. The more calories you burn, the more you can eat without gaining weight.

One of the greatest benefits of going for a walk in nasty weather is this: When you come inside from your walk, when your lips are blue and an icicle is hanging from your nose, you will have a new appreciation for being "stuck" inside your warm, comfortable house.

Les Palmer lives in Sterling.

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