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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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LOVE broomball! We played it all the time in college in the UP on leagues and just for fun. Report
DH and I just went ice skating last week. We hadn't skated in about 35+ years - I stayed up well but dh had a few spills and was sore for 4 days afterwards - it was a good work out for sure... Report
I loaded on a couple hats, a couple pair of gloves, insulated jacket under my coat, and the dog--we went on several 10 minute walks throughout the day. I tried to at least reach a total of 30 minutes. If the wind was not blowing, we could go farther. Report
Before my mobility challenges arose.....I enjoyed snowshoeing, dog sledding, ice skating, shoveling and snow ball fights.

Now I wish it would all melt & Spring would be here, so I can safely walk outside again. Report
I love walking, snowshoeing (a new one this year for me) and cross-country skiing. I love winter, but do exercise indoors when it is below -15C. It's just too cold then to really get going. Report
I am NOT ready for the snow nor cold weather. I am not a lover of exercise but have learned to enjoy the energy from indoor workouts. Maybe I will try it someday but not soon. Report
Love the ideas. Thank you! I would love to try snow-shoeing. It always looked interesting but to see the calories burned, that is amazing. I dread going outside in the winter months, but I have found myself doing more of it this year. I don't have a gym membership, so my main exercise is walking, so I try to get out there 5 out of 7 days a week. I don't look forward to it, but once I am out there, I LOVE the fresh air and enjoy myself. I too, don't feel cold, since I am properly dressed and I am I find myself sweating most times. :)

Thanks for the article! Great ideas. Report
I live in San Diego, so no winter activities for me. I am sticking with my workouts, though. Report
Definitely cross-country skiing is my fav, but recently DH and I tried snow-shoeing for the first time. We had a great time, and being outdoors in the sun and cold was so refreshing! Thanks for the great article, Nicole. Report
Snowshoeing is absolutely one of my most favorite winter activities. I still have to cross-country ski but that is next on my list. I love winter so much! I miss all of the snow in the midwest. Living in Montana, there is tons of snow on the mountains but not so much in the valley. Report
I agree, walking in cold weather is refreshing! Report
I love cross country skiing! Got to get new boots, though, since my toe piece broke off. Report
I cannot exercise outdoors in the winter months when there is snow and/or ice. Living in Wisconsin is not inviting in the winter. I damaged my sacroiliac joints in a fall and broke my skull. My husband won't even let me go outdoors to put the trash to the curb in the winter. Too risky. Activity indoors is for me, and it's in my home that it gets done. Report
No, I hate winter and so wish that I lived somewhere that we never saw snow.
I do not go out of my house unless absolutely necessary and the only outdoor exercise I get is when I have to shovel snow to get out of my driveway.
I use walk dvd's to get exercise since I don't like sweaty gyms and to just try to not gain any weight until the weather gets decent enough to get some outside exercise. Report
I love living in Florida. Reading this blog makes me even more thankful for my warm weather location. Report
Yes! I love being outside in the winter- walking with the dog and the stabilicers on my boots is number one, but the snowshoes bring alot of joy too! Report
Nicole talks about her dad being part of adult recreational hockey, well don't forget the figure skaters. We now have adult tests and competitions. I am 60 and compete regularly (starting skating when I was 40). The competitions are classified not only by skill level but also by age, so I don't generally have to compete against the 20 year olds (unless it's a very small competition). There are people still in their 70s who compete also. It's great exercise. I do wear knee and hip pads to help with the inevitable falls, but I just love it. Report
My problem with winter has nothing to do with snow... in South Texas it doesn't get snow (in fact I hadn't seen falling snow until this years.. thats right, 26 years, no snow!)... we get rain, lots and lots of rain... Going outside when it is gross (like today) isn't very safe, first of all, and secondly isn't very healthy (cause getting wet and cold = hypothermia... Report
I'm STILL WAITING for enough snow to get out and get cross country skiing...grrr! I did it last year for the first time and was a TOTAL KLUTZ and am eager to get back at it to see if I can get my legs 'neath me!

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers & Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams Report
I love to shovel and you do burn a lot of calories doing so. I am sticking with my workout plans and I have to admit, it's not always easy. I like when boot camp is in there during this time, because it helps me get a "second wind" to accomplish my goals during this time of year when it's easy to just quit!! Report
I moved to a place with warm weather all year long - I can't cope with cold weather, it makes me miserable! Report
I live in the Midwest, where there are plenty of weather extremes. I'm also not an athlete and pretty uncoordinated. Given that, I don't like my workouts to depend on the weather or my coordination! So I exercise indoors, year round. This way there's one less excuse!

However, I have tried snowshoeing while vacationing, and it is great fun. Also, quite easy for someone who is too uncoordinated to skate and ski. If you can walk, you can snowshoe, hike, and most likely cross country ski.

Great suggestions, Nicole. Thank you! Report
I have never lived in a place with severe weather, but I find videos (including the ones on this site) to be alot of fun and a challenge. Report
Thanks for all the good suggestions. I have been wanting to get into snowshoeing. Report
I get to shovel snow Report
I'm a snowshoeing fanatic!! Unfortunately, winter has been a pretty big let down here in Vermont. We had no snow for the first month and a half, then we got dumped on with a record 37 inches, then we got 0* highs that made the snow all dry and crusty, and then we got a thaw and everything melted. So here it is the first week of February, and there's no snow on the ground!!!

It seems awfully unfair to me -- I haven't been able to really exercise outside in weeks! Report
This is our first winter back in the midwest after 4 years in CA, and we have taken to winter sports with a vengeance! Cross-country skiing, sledding, and skating are all part of our winter weekends - during the week I use the gym until our basement is finished. And I LOVE shoveling for the mere fact that it's a workout AND I can be outside to do it. Report
Wow - look at all the winter activities that also burn calories! Report
It doesn't go below 65 in the winter where I live Report
Sounds good but got no snow here in SA. LOL Report
I try to get out and hike/walk with a friend of mine - we like to go to the local cemetery/arboretum since its paved and even has marked walking routes. But I especially enjoy snowboarding!!! We're hoping to go this weekend. Report
The hiking seems like something I would enjoy, but I need to invest in some cold weather gear first! Report
I Love to go Snowmobiling when the trails are open and snowshoeing. Report
One of my goals/rewards when I lose some of the weight I need to is to try ice skating. Right now my knees wouldn't take it but I'm thinking if I get below 200 I'll try. My daughter figure skates and is always trying to get me on the ice. Report
I live in the cold north country and I like snow. But I admit I prefer my workouts in the warm gym! Report
I really don't like the cold weather, especially since being diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I live in CA so no snow. I will run on occasion, & plan to do more of it. Report
I leave in the East, and for the first time EVER, I was so excited about snow falling, so that I could burn off some calories by shoveling snow! Our latest snow came down steadily for 23 hours, and I went outside to shovel every 2 hours. It was great, and I felt strong! Who knew??!!! Report
I love to cross country ski, but have'nt made it out this winter. Now that the daylight is beginning to be longer I need to get outside for my exercise. Report
Shoveling has been my outside cold weather activity for the past few weeks. I do like outside running; but not when it is to cold or when there is snow and ice on the ground. Report
Hello! I"m from ohio as well. I however HATE winter....the cold drives me insane....BUT my husband is dying to go snowboarding and sounds like we may get some snow this weekend....not that you really need it to go to a ski place... Report
Not a cold weather fan but I do like shoveling snow, hiking etc. I recently got some cold weather gear to head for the mountains hopefully. Report
I enjoy downhill skiing and try to go at least 3 times a week. Report
I love skiing, and now that I'm retired I have more time, but I really enjoy skiing when there are others along. With global warming I have to keep going further and further north to find that elusive snow. Report
I love Walking in the snow, You hear the snow crushing and Trees are open up to barness and you see everything that is build in them. deer steps and animals.. Squirrels digging for their food....Naturure is "Wonderful" to look at...I love all the voices the world makes... Tires, Machines,People, Smoke .etc... Report
I love Walking in the snow, You hear the snow crushing and Trees are open up to barness and you see everything that is build in them. deer steps and animals.. Squirrels digging for their food....Naturure is "Wonderful" to look at...I love all the voices the world makes... Tires, Machines,People, Smoke .etc... Report
I've gone sledding 4 days in a row,and did some shoveling 2 days. Report
I started running just as the weather started getting cold. Surprisingly, I love running outdoors, cold and all. So yes, I've been able to stick with my fitness goals this winter. Report
I enjoy shoveling the snow! It is quiet and still and I get much need exercise. Don't overdress and lift w/your knees and you're good to go :) Report
I haven't gone tobogganing in forever.... I really should see about doing it again.. maybe I can convince my roommates to join me. Report
If I lived somewhere that it snowed, I would be on the slopes every day. Since I'm in the south, I'll have to deal with walking in the cold. Report