5 Ways to Enjoy Winter (And Burn Calories)


When the cold temperatures and snowy weather hit, many of us may be tempted to crawl under the covers and wait for spring. But there are plenty of activities you can enjoy only when it’s cold outside. In fact, there’s no better time to get moving and enjoy some winter exercise outdoors.

Keeping up your exercise routine in cold weather has other benefits, too. Outdoor workouts are a great way to stave off the blues, increase energy levels and boost immunity. So, instead of viewing cold and snowy conditions as a hindrance, choose activities that revolve around them.

Here are five of my favorite types of winter exercise:

1. Snowshoeing. Tromping through the white stuff in showshoes is becoming increasingly popular—and for good reason. It builds strength, balance and agility, to say nothing of its calorie-burning impact. Studies show snowshoeing torches more calories than walking on a treadmill, even when the pace for both is the same (snowshoeing on a flat trail burns about 350 calories per hour compared to about 250 calories per hour just walking). More seasoned snowshoers can blast up to 800 calories per hour by a tackling hilly trail with powdery snow. Snowshoeing also works quads, hamstrings and calves more effectively than standard cardio workouts. Add poles to the mix and you’ll work your arms, back, and shoulder muscles, too.

Outdoor bonus: Snowshoeing typically involves traversing beautiful terrain, whether you’re headed up-North to the woods or visiting trails at one of the local or state parks nearby. You might even spot some wildlife. Now that’s something you won’t get walking on a treadmill in a stuffy gym.

2. Cross-Country Skiing. If you’re looking for a high-caliber activity to burn calories and build muscle, cross-country skiing should be on your list. Not only does it offer a complete, full-body workout, it’s also low-impact, making it safe for people of all ages and fitness levels. Skiing this way requires you propel yourself forward by working both the pulling and pushing muscles of each region of your body. Even muscles that don’t seem to be involved are called on to support the body and keep you upright.

Outdoor bonus: Whether you choose a groomed path or an undiscovered corner of the woods, cross-country skiing offers a unique opportunity to explore the great outdoors while basking in the solitude on the trail. If you’re experienced, opt for rigorous back-country terrain and you’ll burn up to 1,200 calories an hour.

3. Downhill skiing. While cross-country skiing emphasizes the long haul, downhill skiing requires short bursts of energy with most runs lasting only a few minutes. Hamstrings, quadriceps (thigh), calves and hips are the primary body parts involved. You may also work your abs for control and your arms from using your poles. The end result: You’ll burn 350-500 calories per hour and improve balance, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness in the process.

Outdoor bonus: Navigating through powdery snow and weaving through moguls boasts an adrenaline rush that can rival a runner’s high.

4. Snowboarding. Snowboarding is another power-sport that works hamstrings, quads and calves. It also relies on your core muscles to help you stay on the board, ankle and foot muscles for steering, and arms and shoulders to help you stay balanced on the board. So it’s no surprise that boarding burns more calories than downhill skiing (500-750 per hour).

Outdoor bonus: Boarders savor the thrill of shredding powder.

5. Ice Skating. Whether you’re skating for fun or striving to up your hockey or figure skating game, ice skating improves balance, strengthens lower body muscles and helps you become more nimble on your feet, all while doing something that’s so fun you’ll forget it’s good for you! With its emphasis on quick foot movements, ice skating builds lower body muscles, and depending how you do it, can burn up to 600 calories per hour.

Outdoor bonus: Hitting the local outdoor ice rink is a great way to unwind, relieve stress and have fun with friends and family. In fact, frolicking in the cold is great for bonding!

While wintertime activities can put a spring in your step and invigorate your senses, they pose certain hazards, too. Cold temperatures, improper gear and icy conditions can knock you to your knees instantly, so safety should always come first.

As with any exercise program, check with your doctor before trying a new winter sport. He or she can help you decide if you’re healthy enough to take on the challenge.

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Categories: MoveWell