Winters can be brutal and many people can’t – or don’t want – to get outside to exercise. But with warmer days now , it’s the perfect time to commit to an exercise plan that includes fresh air, even if it’s as simple as walking around your neighborhood or the park. Recent studies from the University of Toronto show that walking can help you maintain a more positive outlook as well as limit bouts of depression. Other studies have shown that walking can boost quality of life and ease symptoms of arthritis.

Here are a few suggestions to help you get back into a more active outdoors lifestyle.

Start Slow

If you haven’t exercised for several months, ease into your walking, running or biking. Start with shorter distances and as your stamina improves, pump up the time.

Take a Break

Don’t toss on the sneakers and start walking 7 nights a week. It’s best to ease into your activity so you don’t overdo it and have sore muscles. Sometimes going overboard can lead to failure. Carving out just a few days (3-4) a week makes our goals more attainable. Go up from there as time permits.

Ask a Friend

Walking with a friend or 2 provides us with the encouragement to go further, the gift of conversation and even makes us feel safer.

Walk the Dog

It’s better for both of you! Don’t have a dog? Ask a neighbor or even volunteer at a local shelter, rescue or guide dog foundation.

Do the Downward Dog

Take your mat outside. There’s nothing like yoga in the sun and fresh breeze to connect you with the earth and the elements.

Bring the Family

Getting everyone off the couch is not always easy, but heading to the park or local trails with bikes for a family bike ride is a great bonding experience with so many health benefits. OR how about a beach stroll, a nature walk, or a game of football or kickball? Getting everyone involved makes it fun for all and keeps you from quitting early.

Stay Hydrated and Covered

Even early in the morning, or on cloudy days, those UV rays wreak havoc on our skin so put on sunscreen about 20-30 minutes before you head out. If you’ll be out more than 2 hours, pack a small travel size one to reapply. Bring water, even if you’re not thirsty or expect to be out only 20 minutes.  The last thing you want is to head back home because you’re dehydrated or feeling a sunburn.

Enjoy spring and getting outdoors again!