“I’m bored.” When I was young, those fateful words earned my siblings and me a list of household chores to do or an order to go outside and amuse ourselves. Exit stage left!
Fresh air and exercise – long prescribed for children’s health and well-being, not to mention parental sanity – take on more importance this crazy year, for young and old alike. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to declare it an essential service.
Heading into the winter of 2021, the colder, darker months may seem colder and darker than ever before under the COVID cloud. Add to that the rather unusual forecast from the Canadian Farmers’ Almanac for the year: “The Winter of the Great Divide: Wet, white, and wild in the West, everything crazy in the East.”
In other words, prepare for anything and everything, people!
So many ways to take on winter safely this year
So how do we survive the winter outlook against the backdrop of a winter lockdown? Yes, there are restrictions to adhere to and weather to dress for, but it’s still possible to safely embrace this season that makes us proud to call ourselves Canadian.
Winter sports enthusiasts rejoice! Most activities can be safely adapted to COVID rules. Building one’s own backyard rink of dreams is a hugely popular pandemic past time. Popular yes, potentially pricey too with custom rinks costing upwards of thousands of dollars. Skis, skates, snowshoes, the increasingly popular fat bikes – all manner of winter sports equipment began flying off the shelves long before the first flakes fell this year. If you didn’t buy early, you may be hard pressed to outfit the family now.
But despair not! Simplicity works too. Dig out your cozy socks, layer up the fleece and wool, and top with your favourite toque – you probably already have everything you need to enjoy the season. From neighbourhood parks to walks around the block to wrestling with the kids in a backyard snow fort…you’re outside, you’re moving, and that’s a good thing.
Fat bike or brisk hike: no passport required!
You can’t go wrong with these three Ottawa-area hikes:
Stony Swamp Conservation Area
Located on National Capital Commission land in Ottawa's west end, Stony Swamp features 40 km of trails ideal for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. It’s the most ecologically diverse protected area in the Ottawa Valley. Free parking all year round. Info and maps available here.
Pinhey Forest Trails
Centrally located just behind the Nepean Sportsplex, you’ll find an easily accessible 3.5 km hiking route through a conifer forest. Also open year-round with free parking. Shout out to Mr. Pinhey, who donated the land in 1948 so that it could be used to demonstrate conservation practices. A much-appreciated natural outdoor respite, especially this year! Details and maps here.
Manitou Hiking and Snowshoeing Trail
A little further west of the National Capital, Calabogie Peaks boasts a fabulous network of hiking trails that cross over thousands of acres of Crown Land. Manitou Mountain is a 9 km, medium level of difficulty hiking/snowshoeing trail passing through picturesque pine forests, ancient glacial spillways, and featuring three spectacular mountain top vistas. More information and details can be found here including this Eagle's Nest hiking guide.
Follow the science to a healthier you!
There’s no shortage of science to prove the benefits of fresh air and exercise. Studies have shown spending time outdoors can improve blood pressure and heart rate, boost the immune system, reduce obesity rates, and strengthen family ties. Fresh air sharpens the mind and cleans the lungs. Best of all, outdoor exercise can be adapted to anyone of any fitness level.
A brisk walk or hike in nature can do wonders for your soul. Step one is simply stepping out the door; there’s no passport required to a happier, healthier you.
So, get energized, get moving, and get out there and play!
- Here’s a handy reminder from Ottawa Public Health on enjoying COVIDWise winter activities safely.