Outdoor exercise can help many people develop a greater appreciation of the cold weather and help prevent the winter blues. Instead of letting the dropping mercury drive you indoors, try one of these 10 ways to burn up some calories and make the most of the freeze.
All of these winter pursuits utilize your major muscle groups and multiple joints, so be sure to warm up, stretch and cool down during each winter workout. And don't forget about the importance of dressing for the weather (and your respective sport). As the odds of falling are higher when your balance is compromised on snow or ice, the right gear is critical.
*All calorie counts based on a 145-pound woman. Men and individuals who weigh more will burn more calories.
Snowshoeing is a great way to get an outdoor workout in the winter and torch BIG calories along the way. Because the snow adds resistance and your feet are heavier in snowshoes, you'll recruit more muscle fibers with every step and burn more calories than standard walking or running. Exercisers of all fitness levels can work at their own intensity level and gradually work their way up to longer workouts. Fitsugar.com has several great posts about getting started with snowshoeing that you can check out here.
Don't reserve hiking for the warmer months. Winter is a great time to hike, provided it's not icy and you can still see the trail markers at your local stomping grounds. Hiking around in snow--especially deep snow--can be great exercise, too. It requires more effort from legs and heart than simple walking, and the only additional equipment needed is good, insulated boots that will keep your feet dry and warm.
Let's face it: Most people don't enjoy shoveling because it involves time, hard work, and cold weather. If you view shoveling as a workout challenge, you may start to feel a little differently about it. With an ergonomic shovel and proper form (use your legs, not your arms and back), you'll elevate your heart rate to an aerobic level and burn enough calories to justify skipping the gym that day.
Provided that you're walking back uphill, you'll have fun with your friends (or kids) and boost your aerobic fitness with an hour of sledding. Get more out of it by working hard on your way uphill, and then you're basically doing interval training, which is a great way to burn calories and boost your fitness level.
A power activity that helps improve muscle strength and endurance, downhill skiing targets every muscle from your abs on down. It's fun but can be pricier than other winter sports, especially if you have to rent equipment. If you do decide to buy, check with used sports equipment stores: Ski fanatics often sell their equipment after only a year, so you can get the-almost-latest models at slashed prices! Because people tend to ski for several hours to take advantage of their day passes, you'll get a lot of exercise in a single ski trip, but keep in mind that these calories burned estimates don't apply to the downtime you spend sipping hot chocolate in the lodge or relaxing on the ski lift on your way back uphill!
Ice skating boosts your endurance, balance and coordination and is the aerobic equivalent of a light to moderate jog. It targets your abs, calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps, and can be done indoors or out. If you're looking for a fun winter date night that doesn't involve a movie, try ice skating--it's perfect for Valentine's Day!
When winter hits, many avid snowboarders hit the slopes as often as possible, which may mean they're skipping the gym. That doesn't mean they're missing out on a good workout. Snowboarding can burn anywhere from 250-630 calories per hour and help you improve your balance and core strength at the same time. (Snowboarders are known for having tight abs after all!)
Cross-country skiing is similar to snowshoeing in that it provides an intense cardio workout without stressing your joints. Burn 500 calories hour or more during a brisk cross-country ski excursion. You can ski almost anywhere you find enough snow: a trail, conservation area, local park, or even a farmer's field. This is also a great alternative to downhill skiing and provides more of an endurance workout because you don't have the downtime of riding back uphill between runs.
You've heard of basketball, softball and soccer leagues, but have you ever looked into an adult lessons or leagues for ice hockey? Hockey is a great aerobic workout that also improves coordination, and you're never too old to start! It you're looking for something challenging and more competitive than these other pursuits, ice hockey could be the winner for you.
Broomball is like the poor man's (or college student's) version of ice hockey. The rules of play are very similar, but people use "brooms" to hit a ball, and instead of wearing ice skates, they play in rubber-soled shoes. Broomball recreational leagues can be found almost anywhere you find ice hockey leagues.
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