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. Fitsugar.com 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?
More From SparkPeople