Ahhh, winter… It’s one of the best times of year to make a steaming cup of hot cocoa, snuggle up with some warm blankets, and veg out on the couch. Yes, it can be very comforting to stay indoors this season watching the snowflakes gently fall from the frosty, white sky on your very comfy couch. But you’d be doing yourself a major disservice if spending all your days in the peaceful state of bliss becomes your norm. Winter tends to be a time of overindulgence and inactivity. Picking up a few winter activities is a great way stay fit, get outdoors, and promote better health this season. Read on to learn how five winter activities can help you shed calories and even the winter blues. By following some of the tips in this article, you’ll be all geared up for spring in no time at all.
Health Benefits of Being Active in Cold Weather
It’s hard to get used to cold weather, especially if you’re from a temperate climate. One way to get motivated to brave the frosty wilderness is to think about how many calories you’ll burn while you’re out there. Being in cold weather is actually an effective way to maximize calorie burn. A 2012 study indicated that cold weather helps the body burn “brown fat.” When this type of fat is triggered, it has the added benefit of helping the body burn off “white fat” as well. More research needs to be done in this area, but this study does offer promising insights on the role of winter activities in individuals’ weight loss efforts.
Besides being good for your physical health, venturing out into the great outdoors this winter is also extremely beneficial for your emotional well-being. Outdoor workouts combat the onset of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues. Spending more time in the sunlight and getting all that blood flowing in your body can help you feel happier and more energized through the long, darker winter months.
Types of Winter Activities
Get Active With Ice Skating
When you think of ice skating, your mind might jump to a cheesy 80s chick flick or the winter Olympics (where the jumps and twirls can look rather unworldly). The good news is that you don’t have to be an Olympian—or even that good for that matter—to get enjoyment out of this winter exercise. It’s a great workout for your ankles, calves, quadriceps, and glutes. And it’s a great way to improve your balance and coordination.
Calorie Burn of Ice Skating
Just 12 minutes of ice skating burns a whopping 100 calories. Now that’s a good reason to lace up those skates at the rink.
Get Active With Sledding
Oh, sledding—the ultimate childhood winter pastime. Hopping on a sled is sure to bring back fond memories of your past. And now as an adult, you can show your kids just how fun soaring downhill on a saucer really is! You may find that sledding feels more like a game than a workout (and that’s a good thing).
Calorie Burn of Sledding
With just 15 minutes on a sled, you can burn 102 calories.
Get Active With Snow Shoveling
Sure, it may not sound like the time of your life, but snow shoveling is a necessary evil for most folks living in snowy climates. You can make this chore a little more fun by bringing out a piping hot mug of your favorite wintertime tea and turning on some good tunes as you shovel your driveway, walkway, and any other areas that need attention.
Calorie Burn of Snow Shoveling
In just 14 minutes, you can shed 100 calories snow shoveling. Perhaps that gives you some motivation to make it a chore day.
Get Active Cultivating Your Winter Garden
There is plenty to be done in the garden before the start of spring. From raking up dead leaves and laying down new soil to pruning roses and dead tree branches, the outdoor workload is nearly endless this time of year. Gardening is an excellent opportunity to bond with your spouse. As the fruits of your labor start to blossom, so too will your love for each other. One extra bonus of getting to work this winter? You’ll have a leg up on the neighbors come spring.
Calorie Burn of Cultivating Your Winter Garden
A 150-pound person can burn as many as 161 calories cultivating their garden for just 30 minutes. Does braving the cold sound a little better now?
Get Active With Downhill Skiing
Hitting the slopes is a great way to get active. Feeling the wind charge at your face as you make a clean line downhill can be an incredibly exhilarating and freeing experience. The great thing about skiing is that you can fly solo or hit the slopes with a group of buddies depending on your mood.
Calorie Burn of Downhill Skiing
Just 14 minutes of downhill skiing burns an impressive 100 calories.
Staying Safe During Cold Weather Activities
Although it might seem like unfair news (one must need an excuse for avoiding cold weather activities, after all), exercising in the winter months is safe for practically everyone. However, if you have the following health conditions, be on the safe side and check with your doctor first:
- Raynaud’s disease
- Heart problems
To ensure you stay safe as you engage in wintertime sports and chores, follow these important safety tips:
- Avoid exercising during extreme wind chills as the wind can penetrate your clothes, removing the insulating layer of warm air around your bundled-up body.
- Do not exercise in cold weather if the temperature falls below 0 °F.
- Get indoors and change your clothes as soon as possible if your clothes become soaked, such as the case with many all-too-adventurous sledding rides. Being wet may interfere with your ability to regulate your core body temperature and could lead to hypothermia.
- Take extra care of older adults and young children who are exercising in cold weather as they are more susceptible to cold than others.
- Always dress in layers when being active in cold weather so that you can better regulate your body temperature and make adjustments when you become too hot or too cold.
- Be sure to wear a hat, a scarf, mittens or gloves, and a good pair of earmuffs. When it’s cold outside, blood flow builds up in your body’s core. Because of this, your head, hands, and feet are more vulnerable to frostbite.
- Always wear UVA and UVB-blocking sunscreen that contains an SPF of 15 or higher on your face and any other exposed areas. Keep in mind that snow and ice are reflective and sunlight can bounce back in your face—this is true even if it’s cloudy outside. To protect your sensitive lips from the elements, carry a stick of moisturizing lip balm with you. It’s also a good idea to pack a stash of tissues in your jacket pocket as your nose is sure to get a little runny in the cold.
You’ve learned how to stay safe as you get more active this winter, so give a few of the five activities listed above a try. Regular winter exercise is sure to boost your spirits and help trim your waistline by spring.
Huffington Post. 6 surprising health benefits of cold weather. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/09/health-benefits-cold-weather_n_2528779.html. Updated January 2015. Accessed February 27, 2018.
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American Council on Exercise. Burn 100 calories with these cold weather activities. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/3755/burn-100-calories-with-these-cold-weather-activities. Updated February 2014. Accessed February 27, 2018.
Shepard B, American Council on Exercise. How can I burn calories in winter’s cold, dark months? https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/1136/how-can-i-burn-calories-in-winter-s-cold-dark-months. Updated December 2010. Accessed February 27, 2018.
Mayo Clinic. Winter fitness: Safety tips for exercising outdoors. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626. Updated September 2016. Accessed February 27, 2018.
The Nemours Foundation. Winter sports: Sledding, skiing, snowboarding, skating. http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/winter-sports.html. Updated January 2013. Accessed February 27, 2018.