For many of us in the United States, winter weather tends to relegate workouts indoors, or becomes an excuse to skip regular exercise sessions altogether while awaiting spring’s warmer temps. While sweat sessions at the gym or at home are great, they can instill a bit of cabin fever over time among those who enjoy being outside.
Notwithstanding excessively snowy, icy or frigid conditions, it is indeed possible to burn calories outside in winter. With some safety precautions, such as layered apparel, wool or polypropylene socks and a hat and gloves, you can brave the colder atmosphere safely. Be sure to check the forecast first, err on the side of dressing more warmly (you can always remove a layer), bring your cell phone and tell someone where you will be.
Among the many benefits of outdoor activity in the winter are extra calories burned due to the body working harder to generate heat, invigorating fresh air, beating the winter blues and better sleep.
Here are some great ways to burn calories outside in the winter – some can be formal exercise sessions, and others are just fun activities, but all count for your fitness and health!
- Walk – You can walk the dog, walk with a friend or walk alone and jam to some tunes. Make it a fitness walk or choose a more leisurely pace. Choose athletic shoes or boots with good traction and watch for ice or slippery spots. And with shorter daylight hours, if you’re headed out before sunrise or around sunset, wear reflective clothing and/or carry a flashlight.
- Run – Diehard runners don’t let winter keep them indoors, and a colder weather run eliminates the risk of overheating and dehydration. Some runners prefer the cooler temperatures, in fact, and run faster without oppressive heat. Again, dress appropriately, check the wind speed and wind chill, and bring a neck gaiter or muffler to cover your nose and mouth on very cold days. And stretch and rehydrate once you’re back indoors.
- Skate – If you have access to an ice rink, skating is great leg and core exercise. When you skate with a friend and enjoy some music, it hardly feels like work. Vary your pace and take breaks as necessary to enjoy this seasonal activity.
- Ski – Whether cross-country or downhill skiing, this is a terrific way to work your body and have fun at the same time. Cross-country skiing engages virtually every muscle in your body and is one of the best calorie-burners around. And no need to worry about getting cold with the exertion of traversing the terrain on skis.
- Hockey – For those craving competition, an ice hockey game is fast-moving, challenging and provides some social interaction as well. See if your local recreation center has teams or leagues, or check with rinks for opportunities.
- Shovel – OK, for those of us who live in snowy areas, this one isn’t really a fun option. But it’s certainly an effective workout. Skip the snowblower when you can and embrace the satisfaction of manual labor!
- Play – Kids play in the snow all the time, so get off the sidelines. Sledding is an effective workout when you keep traipsing uphill. Snowboarding is even tougher. Or engage in a snowball fight, build a snowman or fort or try snowshoes. There are no limits just because you are an adult!
- Circuit – No snow? Just find a park or track and alternate intervals of walking, sprinting, lunges, squats, climbing stairs (if available), burpees, mountain climbers, planks, push-ups, dips and more. Be creative, and simultaneously tackle your cardio and strength!