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10 Ways to Melt Mega Calories in Winter Weather

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I dread winter weather just as much as the next guy, but this year, I made a commitment to myself that I would stick with my outdoor runs all winter (as long as it's not so cold that it's unsafe for outdoor exercise). Luckily, temperatures in Cincinnati haven't dropped below the upper teens yet, so I'm happy to report that I'm still on track with my goals so far. It's not always easy, but when you're properly dressed and prepared, outdoor exercise doesn't feel cold or uncomfortable at all.

Running this winter has helped me develop a greater appreciation of my most loathed season. These cold, dreary months used to lull me into inactivity and seasonal depression, but this year, winter is becoming fun and enjoyable for me—something I attribute to my winter runs. Now, I no longer dread the temperatures or the snow. In fact, being outside more often seems to have made me more tolerant to the dropping mercury.

I wrote an article about seasonal depression a few years ago, and one of my tips to prevent the winter blues was to make the most of winter—to find activities that get you active outdoors so you can appreciate the season instead of viewing it as a buzz kill. So for those who are struggling to enjoy the winter or get outdoors for a workout, here are 10 ways you can torch calories and make the most of the freeze without setting foot in a gym. And guess what: Most of them are actually FUN!

Snowshoeing: 510* calories per hour
Snowshoeing is a growing winter sport, but most people I've talked to have not tried it (myself included). However, it's supposed to be 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. has several great posts about getting started with snowshoeing that you can check out here.

Hiking: 445* calories per hour
Don't reserve hiking for the warmer months alone. Winter is a great time to hike, provided it's not icy and you can still make out 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.

Shoveling: 380 calories per hour
Let's face it: Most people don't enjoy shoveling because it involves time, hard work, and cold weather—three things we usually try to avoid. But 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.

Sledding: 455 calories per hour
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.

Downhill Skiing: 385 calories per hour
A power activity that helps improve muscle strength and endurance, downhill skiing targets every muscle from your abs on down. It’s a lot of 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! Since 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: 450 calories per hour
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 another movie, try ice skating—perfect for Valentine's Day!

Snowboarding: 390 calories per hour
My boyfriend is a big snowboarder. When winter hits, he's on the slopes all weekend and as often as possible during the week, too. That means he's skipping the gym, but that doesn't mean he's 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: 510 calories per hour
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.

Ice Hockey: 380 calories per hour
You've heard of basketball, softball and soccer leagues, but have you ever looked into an adult lessons or leagues for ice hockey? My stepdad has played ice hockey his entire life and still plays in an adult recreation league today, usually the oldest man on the ice during each game. Hockey is a great aerobic workout that also improves coordination, and you're never too old to start! My mom has a friend who took up ice hockey in her 40s and joined my stepdad's rec league! It you're looking for something challenging and more competitive than these other pursuits, ice hockey could be the winner for you.

Broomball: 470 calories per hour
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. (Scary? A little!) Broomball was big where I went to college, and recreational leagues can be found almost anywhere you find ice hockey leagues. If you haven't caught a broomball game before, they are highly entertaining to watch, too.

*All calorie counts based on a 145-pound woman. Men and individuals who weigh more will burn more calories.

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.

What's your favorite way to burn calories during winter? Are you sticking with your fitness plans so far?

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LOSER05 5/7/2020
thanks Report
KOALA_BEAR 1/19/2020
I hate snowy overcast days & moved away from it years ago. I also do not tolerate cold well as an after effect of my adrenal glands being nearly shut down for three years so altho that was long ago, I don't push it. I go out when necessary & exercise primarily indoors. I hear that UK scientists are closer than ever to a chemical that would trick our body into becoming fitter w/o activity so I am volunteering to be in the first human group to be tested. It's my sacrifice for the group, you can thank me later. Meantime I'll try to go to the tropics for the whole season. Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
thanks Report
Inside or out, just keep moving! Report
Great information. Thanks. Report
Good article. Thanks. Report
Great article Report
Great information Report
Should be running outside, I just can’t wrap my head around it. I have all the cold weather running gear... just terrified to commit. So, treadmill it is! Report
I've always wanted to cross country ski but ski's are expensive. Maybe I'll try snow shoes?? Report
Need these to burn more calories in the winter. Thanks. Report
If you live in a snowy place, being outside boosts your mood - the light reflecting off the snow can get you out of that gloomy, seasonal affective disorder thing! Of course, it also works in the non-snowy areas but not as well, I don't think! Report
I live in the south where we rarely get snow (we do have mountains for the skiing, snowboarding, etc,) but I live right by the mountains, so I have gotten SO into going hiking with me. Added bonus: we take the pups, and they end up worn out, so they aren't as hyper. Report
I'm running my way thru my first Chicago winter! :) Report
Now that I live in northern Michigan (the snowbelt for the state), I am outside more and more in the winter. Was so excited to get outside this winter, until 1/1/12, when I broke 3 toes in my right foot. After a full week, it is still terribly bruised. I can't even get a boot on. Can't wait for this to heal. Live in a golf/ski resort and have snow shoes, cross country skis, etc. Lots of opportunities here for winter exercise. Report
I would like to live somewhere warmer. But on a bright, sunny, cold day I make the most of it ... I enjoy walking and snowshoeing! Report
I hate cold weather, too! Report
The article states that snowshoeing burns more calories than regular walking, and I agree with that statement. So why does the fitness tracker give snowshoeing the same calories burned as a slow walk? Report
I hate cold weather! Report
All those are outside sports. I hate the cold. I like to turn on my gospel music and dance (sometimes with my 2 year old grand-daughter. My favorite sport is swimming. So, in the winter, I go to an inside swimming pool. I also walk the shopping mall. Report
Ever since I started cross-country skiing I have loved winter -- and I feel just as fit if not more fit than I do in summer when I bike every day and do other workouts. Instead of dreading the cold I can't wait for it to snow! Report
After living in Florida for most of our lives, my husband and I fulfilled a dream and moved onto 10 acres on the side of a mountain when we were both 40 years old. Now winter is MY time to get out into the woods and cut up downed trees (I learned to use a chainsaw at the tender age of 42!), cut down dead ones that I marked in the summer, haul and burn all of the lumber that I have cleared, and all with no worries of snakes or bears or poison ivy! This year we have had tons of snow, we love sledding down our driveway before clearing it, and for someone that works out regularly inside, let me tell you, any hiking or walking up hill in the snow is quite a bit more of a work out than it is when there is no snow! Stay inside in the winter?? Only if it is freezing cold and raining instead of snowing! Report
We just had 30 inches and in a few days 10 more. My legs are sore from the squatting/shoveling but I feel good knowing that I'm getting my work-out on! Report
I live where we don't get alot of cold. But it is suppose to snow maybe Thursday & Friday. But it doesn't stay for long. Report
Not much safety or avenues for most of these in my area's of TN, but recently a LOT of Snow Shoveling is needed and I have certainly done my share! Report
Good suggestions lucky us we don't see very much snow at all around here. Report
Thanks for the post. Makes you sweat just thinking about shoveling the driveway! Report
This is a wonderful entry! At it's core, it's driving home the point of making the best of everything! I love it!
Thanks for reminding me that I can still get out there and hike. I adore hiking, and it's good to think I can get a jump-start for spring!
The snow can be so beautiful, and as much as the winter tends to cramp our style, I love the idea of focusing on the beauty and richness each season brings!

Unfortuanatley due to muscle tension in my shoulders and neck I can't do any of those fun things. I could walk but here in the N. Country we barely get a good kind of winter air its so frigid this year. I do however have to walk back in forth to the laundry mat and to the dumpsters so it ain't much. I am looking into a in the house workout. I have found some but again have to limit cause I have a bulging disc in my back and neck. Don't want sympathy I just wish it were easier for me to exercise cuz I love it. Report
Does anyone ZUMBA! It's so much fun and such a great workout! Report
the ymca has a salt water heated pool and its awsome in the winter time. Report
Snowshoeing is my winter sport, and it's great exercise and great fun. The newer snowshoes really make a difference - but finding the right snowshoe for you can be difficult. Turns out there's a program in 22 states (I just looked it up) where you can try out a variety of snowshoes, all for free! Go to / and put in your state. In Colorado they offer at least two days each year, one at Echo Lake (near Mt Evans) and one at Estes Park (near Rocky Mountain National Park). We went to the Echo Lake one several years ago. I tried on several pairs. One pair gave me horrible blisters, but a pair I tried on AFTER getting the blisters worked like a charm for me! You can't buy any snowshoes at these events, but I knew what to buy and did once the snowshoes went on sale at the end of that season.

I also recommend having collapsible poles. They help with balance and make the workout even more effective by giving your upper body more exercise. This year we've gone out four times already, and I'm ready for more! One reason I like snowshoeing is that you are in full control - you don't slip and slide like you do with cross-country skis. Report
I am not into winter sports and find that a brisk walk from my car to my desk (.5 mile) daily is a great start to my day Report
I use to dread winter also but I decided to make winter the time I prepare for summer or do things that I want to do but wouldn't do when it's nice out. For example I am getting my SCUBA certification at my local YMCA that way I am learning and burning calories. It also helps that I have to put on my swimsuit every week to remind myself to keep working out hard! Report
This is a wonderful post! I have forgotten how much I love to do winter sports and know I am definitely feeling motivated to go out and go snowshoeing, skiing, etc. again. Report
Great ideas for snow winters. but what about rainy, foggy winters? Does anybody know a good outdoor activity that can be done in the rain and that's fun? Oh and something for us over 60's? Report
Last year I kept up my outdoor walking all winter except when it was unsafe with below 0 temps or the ice storm. This year I have become a home body (since mid Jan until early to mid March) because of an injury but long to get out and feel the cold, hear the snow, and just enjoy the winter outdoors. It also gives me a greater appreciation for my warm house when I return. Report
I like the previous poster's suggestion to use the ipod while shoveling- I always thought of shoveling as a chore but am sure to enjoy it now /music! A great opportunity to try that out is coming my way tonight and tomorrow 6-8 inches!! THANKS a bunch for this suggestion! Report
Shoveling: 380 calories per hour??? you got to be kidding.. that is very hard work.. i do it .. and i know i burn more calories .. please GIVE US MORE FOR SHOVELING.. LOL.. Report
I always look at shoveling as an extra cardio session. Slap on the MP3 player and grab the shovel! Report
Main exercise is walking but with ice under the snow need to be very careful. Do not need to risk a fall so some day do not walk. Agree we need some senior exercise blog. Report
Great post!!! Report
Got an ideas for a 63 year old Grandma recovering (5 weeks) from a break in the small bone in my leg? I wish you had more senior type exercize advice. Thanx! Report
I love hiking in the winter. One of the down sides is hidden ice. I injured myself but hopefully will be back out at it next week. One of the metro parks was going to have snowshoeing so you could try it but there wasn't enogh snow that day. There are a couple of more times set up and I am hoping to try it before the winter is over. Report
These all sound really fun............but, I'm just not an outdoor person in the winter. We used to sled and ice skate a lot, but I just can't stand the cold temps anymore. Come on Spring! Report
see what running has done for you!!! now put the hiking and running together to have trail running just think what calorie burn you will have.

then come home and shovel the snow woo hoo, calorie burn Report
Shoveling snow is a BIG workout for me!!! Report
So if the (downhill skiing) calories burned estimates don't apply to time sitting on a ski lift, do the (sledding) calories burned estimates apply to time spent sitting or lying on a sled??

And don't feel guilty paying a neighborhood teen to shovel your sidewalk - think of it as a contribution to their health! :^) :^) Report
Ice skating! And sledding is fun too but it's been YEARS since I've done it.
Would love to try snow shoeing. Report