Don't be discouraged by winter
1/9/2023 by Muse Abdi, M.B.B.S., BBiomedSc, M.P.H., Talor Gray, M.P.H., and Brian A. Lynch, M.D.
During the winter months, people make excuses and stop doing outdoor activities. However, even during the cold, our bodies still need physical activity to stay healthy. Therefore, you should continue outdoor activities for the benefit of your health.
People who do not stop their physical activity goals continue to get the health benefits of being active. Studies show that people who are always active live longer and are at less risk for chronic diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer.
Wintertime can be a challenging time to do outdoor physical activities. This can cause you to become sedentary and be dependent on your car. That's why many people miss their physical health goals during the winter. Keep up with your outdoor physical activities to improve your physical and mental health and reach your health goals.
Stay encouraged to continue your outdoor activities and utilize the following to help meet your health goals.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
With 75 state parks and over 1,300 miles of state trails in Minnesota, there are countless opportunities to explore outdoors this winter. Some of the most popular winter activities at Minnesota state parks and trails include:
- Sledding: Frontenac State Park has the best sledding hill in southeast Minnesota.
- Snowshoeing: Whitewater State Park offers free snowshoe programs every Saturday in February. Join a naturalist for a guided snowshoe hike and learn about the park in winter. Snowshoe rentals are available at Forestville/Mystery Cave, Frontenac, Myre Big Island and Whitewater state parks.
- Ice Fishing: Several state parks offer ice fishing programs in January and February. Whitewater State Park hosts a family ice fishing event each January as part of the statewide Take a Kid Ice Fishing Weekend (Jan.14–16).
- Cross-Country Skiing: Many state parks provide groomed trails for cross-country skiing. Use the ParkFinder tool to locate state parks with ski rentals. If you're out hiking, please do not use groomed ski trails.
- Fat Bike Riding: Fat biking is a wonderful way to keep cycling throughout the year. Fat biking is allowed on ungroomed state trails and in state parks on ungroomed trails that allow for bicycles. Park roads that allow motor vehicles are also open to fat biking.
- Another exciting way to experience winter is to take an after-dark hike or snowshoe walk at a Candlelight Event. These events are offered at parks and trails across Minnesota. In southeast Minnesota, watch for candlelight events offered at Frontenac and Forestville/Mystery Cave state parks and the Root River State Trail.
- Winter trout fishing, golden eagle watching, winter forest bathing (Shinrin-Yoku) walks and a variety of naturalist programs are other ways to experience the outdoors this winter.
- Learn more about winter activities at Minnesota state parks and trails.
Olmsted County Park programs for winter
Olmsted County is home to four county parks, each with unique opportunities for winter activities.
- Cross-Country Skiing: Chester Woods Park and Oxbow Park have great opportunities for cross-country skiing. Oxbow Park has two miles of groomed trails with the option to rent skis if you don't have your own. While Chester Woods does not rent skis, it does have 10 miles of beautifully groomed trails.
- Snowshoeing: Three of Olmsted County's four parks have several miles of trails for users to snowshoe. Oxbow Park offers snowshoe rentals for those who don't have their own and want to try it out.
- Fat Tire Biking: Both Chester Woods Park and Oxbow Park offer several miles of trails for the biking enthusiast. Specific trails are posted at both parks, and maps are available here: Olmsted County Parks Trail Maps.
- Ice Fishing: Olmsted County Parks are beautiful places to get out and do some ice fishing. Chester Woods Park is co-hosting a Youth Ice Expo fishing tournament with Project MN Youth Outdoors on Feb. 18. Bring the family to learn all about ice fishing and try to win some prizes. Lake Zumbro Park is also a great place to try out your luck ice fishing. You can find more information here.
- Naturalist Programs: Chester Woods and Oxbow Park offer weekly Naturalist Programs throughout the season with always-changing topics.
- Zoo Visit: Oxbow Park offers a unique experience for the animal lovers out there. Within Oxbow Park is the charming Zollman Zoo. This zoo offers viewing of over 75 Minnesota-native animals and is open year-round.
Rochester, Minnesota, has over a hundred parks with great outdoor activities. Below is a list of some winter activities in the Rochester area this winter.
- Ice Skating: The Park and Recreation Department maintains outdoor hockey and public skating rinks throughout the city. Check out all the rink and skating locations on their website. Ice skates are available for checkout on the weekends at Soldiers Field Park, where they offer skating on the oval and hockey rink.
- Sledding: Rochester parks offer several locations for sledding. A few favorites include Judd Park, Schmidt Park and the new sledding hill at Game Haven Park.
- Cross-Country Skiing: Cross-country ski trails are maintained at several parks, including Game Haven, Eastwood Golf Course, Essex and Quarry Hill. Game Haven also has access to a snow-making machine this winter, which should provide quality trails throughout the winter.
- Ice Fishing: Ice fishing is a popular pastime at Foster Arend Park during the winter months.
- Quarry Hill Nature Center offers a wide variety of winter activity equipment and events to get out and enjoy. Check out their website for more details.
The Parks and Recreation Department maintains a facility directory that can be a useful tool for finding amenities for the winter season. Check out the directory on their website.
Muse Abdi, M.B.B.S., BBiomedSc, M.P.H., is a community health specialist and Statewide Health Improvement Partnership active living and health care strategist with Olmsted County Public Health Services. He serves on the Southeast Minnesota Park Rx Work Group, educating health care professionals on the importance of prescribing time in nature and public awareness of the health benefits of the natural world.
Brian A. Lynch, M.D., is a primary care pediatrician at Mayo Family Clinic Northwest in Rochester. He co-chairs the Primary Care Work Group of the Mayo Clinic Obesity Council and chairs the Primary Care Obesity Task Force. Dr. Lynch works closely with the Southeast Minnesota Park Rx Team to promote the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature with his patients and colleagues.