Winter has officially set in, and some folks may be experiencing an increase in mood fluctuations due to the colder weather and longer nights. Many CNY residents are familiar with the term SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that fluctuates with the changing of seasons. Typically, SAD starts in the late fall/early winter and persists until the spring. SAD can be linked to the extra hours of darkness in the cooler months; causing changes in the amount of serotonin and melatonin secreted in the brain. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the darkness and induces sleepiness. Long lasting nights during the winter months allow more time for melatonin to be secreted. This excess of melatonin can make us feel groggy and unfocused. While SAD should be diagnosed and treated by a licensed medical professional; research has shown that exercising outdoors may decrease or prevent symptoms of SAD. Experts believe that depression can be kept at bay with exercise and small behavioral changes. CNY is known for its cloudy days but getting outside (even on cloudy days) has a better mood-boosting effect than artificial light indoors.
Nature has been a neglected antidote. Thousands of studies have confirmed that people who reside near green spaces are happier and have better physical and mental health. Studies have also demonstrated people living near green spaces are less likely to be obese and more likely to engage in exercise. Nature restores and heals. It helps in coping with pain, and in some instances alleviates it. Outdoor recreation leads to a healthier, more satisfying life. Exercising outdoors has proven benefits including:
•Enjoyable scenery (which can alleviate pain and make the brain think you’re not exercising).
•Reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and SAD.
•Improved ability to concentrate and increased cognitive skills.
•Any activities that parents can perform with their children (bike riding, hiking, walking, kayaking, camping) are highly beneficial as they not only provide physical activity, but parent/child bonding time.
•Outdoor recreation facilitates individuals into being more active participants in their own health.
•Improvements in mood, well-being, insulin sensitivity, quality of life, abilities in preforming activities of daily living independently, and increased self-esteem.
•Walking outdoors is a low-intensity, free physical activity that doesn’t require equipment or costs. Regular walking can increase quality of life.
With all the social media hype, we often connect with family, friends, and associates through platforms such as Facebook, but these forms of social media can often lead us into becoming socially disconnected (with increased screen time, social isolation, and sedentarism). To help combat this and ward off the Winter Blues, consider one of the many outdoor winter recreation opportunities CNY has to offer. Your Winter Wonderland awaits!
Four Seasons Golf & Ski Center. Children, families, and adults can utilize this center for summer or winter outdoor recreational activities. Multiple schools within the community utilize this center for their school’s physical education classes (instead of the traditional gymnasium located within school boundaries). Four Seasons participates in New York’s 3rd and 4th Grade Kids Ski Free Program. This center is most popular to learn how to ski and snowboard. Also offered is snow tubing and cross-country skiing. During the summer months, this center offers adventure golf/soccer, and batting cages.
Beaver Lake Nature Center. Here, there are 3 separate trails snowshoers can enjoy. Snowshoe rentals are $5 per hour and are available from 9am-3:30pm. On Saturdays & Sundays in January and February they offer a Snowshoeing Clinic at 12:30pm. This clinic is catered to individuals will little to no experience. Registration is required by calling (315) 638-2519. Weekend guided walks are offered year-round on Saturdays & Sundays. The program is free with park admission. Registration is required.
Highland Forest. An opportunity to experience the solitude of hiking through the snow-covered woods! Highland Forest offers 6 trails of varying lengths that cater to all levels of snowshoers. Snowshoes can be rented during park hours (weather conditions permitting). Visit Highland Forest online for trail maps.
Onondaga Lake Park. Come out and enjoy snowshoeing along the Shoreline Walking Trail, the Long Branch Park Loop, and the West Shore Trail. You must bring your own equipment. Visit onondagacountyparks.com for more information.
Snow Shoe at The Empire Farm Brewery. The event offers free snow shoe rentals allowing participants to walk the 22-acre property or backyard trails for beautiful views of Cazenovia Lake and the surrounding area. All physical fitness levels are encouraged and welcomed. This free event runs through the winter season and offers a way to participate in outdoor physical activity when options become sparse in the winter season. This event is sponsored by Rogers Environmental Education Center. In total, this event offers 300 acres of Cazenovia Preservation to explore. Parking is free. There is food and drinks available inside the brewery. The free snow shoe rentals are on a first come, first serve basis. No experience is necessary. Call or visit friendsofrogers.org for more information and available dates.
Green Lakes State Park. Park and trails are open to the public and remain free of charge during the winter season. Green Lakes is one of the most studied meromictic lakes in the world. This park tends to attract scientists and educators from all over the country. The park offers incredibly scenic trails. Round Lake has been designated as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Most of the park encompasses old-growth forest. During the summer months the park offers swimming, swimming lessons, children’s playground, beach access, camping along with recreational outdoor activities, a prestige golf course, and trails to hike/bike.
Even in the dead of winter, the park is astonishingly breathtaking. During winter months, the park offers roughly 15 miles of cross-country ski trails. Trails are also often used by individuals to snow shoe. The two hiking trails that surround the two lakes are called North Lake Trail and Round Lake trail. If combined, these two trails will take a hiker on an approximate 3.25-mile loop. These hikes are not physically demanding and can cater to all fitness levels.
Candlelight Hike Selkirk Shores State Park. This event is for family, friends, and loved ones to come out and enjoy a well-groomed, half-mile loop, self-guided candlelit trail. After the short unique hike, you have the option to enjoy the warmth of the fires set up. Refreshments are provided at an enclosed shelter along with light snacks. The shelter includes crafts for kids to make. Leashed dogs are allowed. Snow shoes aren’t necessary for this hike, but are available for $5.00 on a first come-first served basis at the park office. Bring a non-perishable good to be donated and receive a gift in return! All food items are donated to a local food pantry. This 2-hour event offers a wonderful and unique way to enjoy the outdoors during the evenings of the winter season! Call (315) 298-5737 for more information.
Meachem Ice Rink. This ice rink is fully enclosed and open year-round. Special programs are offered throughout the week as well as open skate hours. Call ahead to confirm open skate hours (315) 492-0179.
Clinton Square Ice Rink. Located in Downtown Syracuse, they are now open for the 2018-19 winter season. The rink is open through March 9th with $3.00 admission; children 12 and under can skate for $2.00. Skate rentals are $3.00 and free admission is offered Wednesday evenings throughout the winter season.
Greek Peak Mountain Resort. CNY’s largest four season, family centered resort. Located in the Finger Lakes region, this resort offers fun activities for everyone. The resort encompasses 54 trails, aerial lifts, surface lifts, beginner’s slope, Terrain Parks, and a Progression Park. The Resort offers groomed Cross Country and Snowshoe Trails. Check out their Snow Tubing Center with over 15 lanes! After the snowy adventures, check out their Cascades Indoor heated Waterpark. This 41,000 sq.-ft park offers 500 feet of slides, wavepool and hot tubs!
CNY offers an abundance of outdoor recreational activities that cater to all age groups and fitness levels. Get outside CNY’ers because you won’t get a beautiful view on a treadmill!
Remember: Life’s a mountain not a beach. You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a lift ticket!
Happy Adventuring & In Good Health,
Sarah Farrell BSN, RN, personal trainer, outdoor adventure enthusiast, Lyme disease survivor.