Over 500,000 Canadian snowbirds migrate south to warmer climes each year in a valiant attempt to escape Canadian winter cold.

That leaves the rest of us – approximately 37 million people from coast to coast – satisfied to tough out everything a Canadian winter can throw at us. If you’re a glass-half-empty person, that means you’re staring down a solid three months of numbingly cold temperatures, blizzards, horrific driving conditions and the occasional bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder (a.k.a. S.A.D.), content to take your cue from nature and hibernate inside till spring arrives.

However, if you’re the glass-half-full type, an eternally positive person who always looks at the bright side of life, then you’re probably salivating at the thought of January ski runs, playing pond hockey, winter hiking, snow-shoeing, ice-wine festivals and all the other great winter activities designed to help you release your inner Canadian. Winter, along with death and taxes, is an inevitable and unavoidable reality for people who choose to live in Canada, so you might as well embrace it. And there are benefits for doing just that!

Benefits of Winter in Canada

1. Let’s Get Physical

Crossing Nictau Lake with pulks. Photo by Andrew Stokes-Rees.
Crossing Nictau Lake with pulks. Photo by Andrew Stokes-Rees.

According to recent studies, people who are consistently exposed to colder temperatures often develop a speedier metabolism. Spending a couple hours outside on a regular basis can help your body burn more energy; that can mean anything from a brisk hike through the neighbourhood to an igloo-building session with the kids. Committing to regular activity outdoors is a great tool to help you stay healthy, especially after indulging over the holidays.

2. Walking on Sunshine

Additionally, winter activity can help your body produce Vitamin D, which is critical to building healthy bones and keeping them strong in your golden years. Exposing your face and hands to a daily dose of winter sun for even fifteen minutes a day is enough to help your body elevate its Vitamin D levels, so never hesitate to join the kids when asked to hit the toboggan hills or cross-country ski trails.

3. Don’t Worry; Be Happy

photo: ryan martin CCC

Winter activity is not only enjoyable, but more and more studies are confirming what we all instinctively know as Canadians: that exposure to sun in the winter is vital and necessary to ward off winter depression and the appropriately named S.A.D.

Exercise of any kind triggers the brain to release epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine, both of which serve to increase our level of happiness. Getting active in the winter cold often causes the brain to release more of these substances, which accounts for the smile you see on the face of anyone making a snowman or stock-piling snowballs inside a snow fort.

4. It’s a Wonderful World

neal Weisenberg ice on lake erie
Ice on Lake Erie. © Neal Weisenberg | CWF Photo Club

Ultimately, there’s another simple reason to get outside during the winter months. If you’ve never walked through a frozen forest, with its glistening crystal-esque ice-covered branches, then you’re missing an opportunity to see some of Mother Nature’s most spectacular art-work.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Below Zero page has a list of 50 ways you can get outside and enjoy life when temperatures dip below freezing. Don’t miss your chance to show those golf-loving snowbirds what they’re missing!