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The Winter Wonderland effect: How a walk in the snow helps boost body image

Do you ever feel down about your body? Bundling up and taking a walk in the snow may help improve your body image. Viv Williams has details of a new study in this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion."

Berries in the snow
A nature walk through the snow may help improve your body image.
Viv Williams / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — If you dread the cold and snow of winter, a new study might help you find it more tolerable. The research shows that spending time outside in snowy weather helps improve how you feel about your body.

Nature's effect on mental and physical health is not new. But this study, from the Medical University of Silesia, in Katowice, Poland, and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK, is the first to show that white spaces, such as snow-covered woodlands, are beneficial, too.

Women in the study assessed their body appreciation before and after taking a walk in the snow. Results show that spending a short amount of time in nature – in this case approximately 40 minutes – results in greater body appreciation. This holds true for people walking alone or in small groups.

“Natural environments help to restrict negative appearance-related thoughts and shift attention away from an aesthetic view of the body and toward greater appreciation of the body’s functionality," says Dr. Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at ARU. "Positive body image is important not only in its own right, but has other beneficial effects, including more positive psychological well-being."

Swami says it's important for people to know that they can access restorative natural environments, which may be a cost-effective was to promote a healthier body image. And that being outside has health benefits no matter what the weather.

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The study is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

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Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple,   Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

MORE HEALTH FUSION:
When arctic blasts plummet temperatures, stepping outside can be dangerous. In this Health Fusion episode, Viv Williams talks to a researcher about what intensely cold air could do to anyone's lungs.

Opinion by Viv Williams
Viv Williams hosts the NewsMD podcast and column, "Health Fusion." She is an Emmy (and other) award-winning health and medical reporter whose stories have run on TV, digital and newspaper outlets nationwide. Viv is passionate about boosting people's health and happiness by helping them access credible, reliable and research-based health information from top experts. She regularly interviews experts and patients from leading medical institutions, such as Mayo Clinic.
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