It turns out that snow days can be good for more than snowmen and hot cocoa. Mother Nature may be doing your mind and body a favor with all those extra flakes. Here are six ways a good old-fashioned snow day might be benefiting your health:
1. Snow days let you sleep in. The power of sleep is well documented. Getting the right amount of shuteye (seven to eight hours for most people) can make us better athletes, help maintain a healthy weight, ward off Alzheimer's disease, and result in fewer sick days from work. Sleep has also been linked to forming new memories, and may lead to improved brain function and memory later in life. So sleeping in an extra hour or so on a snow day may mean a better functioning, healthier you.
2. Playing outside counts as major exercise. Trekking through the snow can be a serious workout. An hour of snowshoeing burns 500 calories and an hour of cross country skiing, more than 570. Dodging snowballs in a snowball fight can also zap around 500 calories per hour from light jogging. Hiking up hills to sled down can also burn more than 500 in one hour. Even building a snowman is a way to get your heart pumping and crush nearly 300 calories per hour, PopSugar reports.
3. Spending the day curled up with a good book may also improve your health and happiness. Don't feel like battling the cold temperatures? Diving into a good book comes with its own benefits. Research has linked the habit to staving off Alzheimer's disease and reducing stress. Plus, reading can improve brain function. So stock up on cozy blankets and enjoy the health perks, bookworms.
4. Snow days force us to take a vacation. Many of us work a lot. More than 40 percent of Americans who receive paid vacation don't actually use all of their days off. Not taking time off can actually hurt our productivity at work. But snow days push us to take some time to ourselves.
5. It's an opportunity to eat a home-cooked family meal. Too much snow makes it basically impossible to order delivery or takeout, and offers you enough free time to actually cook dinner. Research suggests that home cooking leads to fewer calories and a healthier overall diet. You might want to make it a habit: Eating together as a family makes children 12 percent less likely to be overweight, 24 percent more likely to eat healthy foods, and 35 percent less likely to develop an eating disorder, according to a paper from Cornell University. Family time may also help children perform better in school and say no to drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, Health.com reports.
(Looking for the perfect dish to whip up? Try one of our perfect-for-winter soup recipes.)
6. Having fun is good for you. Whether you'd prefer to spend the day outside or curled up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate, enjoying yourself for a day is a boon to your health. Stress can cause headaches, fatigue, anxiety, sleep problems, and even depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. Taking a day to relieve all that can improve your mood and your health. Getting silly in the snow is also a good idea. Laughing may lower inflammation and decrease the amount of stress hormones in your body that can hurt your immune system, Time reports.