When the temperatures drop it’s a good time to hibernate and become best friends with your couch and your DVR, right? Wrong! It’s time to find some awesome winter exercises. Yes, the weather might be brisk and it will most certainly take a new level of motivation to get out and get moving, but there are plenty of ways to stay fit and have fun this season. Plus you might just avoid a nasty case of cabin fever. Some of the best outdoor sports are winter sports, and some of your year-round routines you can still do in the winter, as long as you have the right gear.
It’s no secret that exercise releases endorphins, which is what leads to that amazing high you feel after you workout. It’s what keeps us coming back for more sweat session after sweat session. And according to Kevin Plancher, M.D., head of Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in New York City, this fact is equally true (or maybe more true) in cold weather. In the winter “your body has to work harder in the cold, your endorphin production is boosted even more, leading to a happier state of mind.” In other words, if you want to jumpstart your body and uplift your mood this season, you need to get moving. The time is now, so before you pack away your workout gear until spring, check out the 10 best winter fitness ideas to keep you fit this season.
It’s fun, it will take you back to your childhood, and as an added bonus, you can do it with your kids. Hauling that sled up a major hill is no easy task, and you’ll be breaking a sweat no matter how cold it is outside. The exhilaration as you zoom down a snowy hill is totally worth the effort and you can burn about 224 calories in just a half-hour.
2. Shoveling Snow
Yeah, we know. This doesn’t sound like one of the most fun winter exercises. When you were younger shoveling your driveway was a real pain in the butt. It was the task your parents made you do as punishment. It’s still not exactly a party, but it’s certainly a good way to torch some calories. You’ll work your arms, back and core as you work the shovel. Don’t be surprised if you feel sore the next day.
Sure, running in warm weather can be enjoyable, or even relaxing, but there is something equally invigorating about jogging in the brisk winter air. Plus, you can burn nearly double the calories running through the snow versus running on an even surface. Your focus will be different during a winter jog as you pay more attention to your footing and as you take a bit longer to warm up your core body temperature, but you’ll still be able to get in a great workout. Just remember to hydrate, dress in appropriate gear and invest in a good pair of trail running shoes, which are better equipped to handle winter terrain.
4. Build a Campfire
Nothing says winter like bonding with your loved ones while snuggling up around a campfire—and it happens to be one of the best winter exercises. And since someone will have to build that campfire, that someone should be you. Gathering sticks, stacking logs…building a fire takes patience, strength and energy. You’ll burn calories as you work and everyone will get to reap the benefits of your work.
5. Downhill Skiing or Snowboarding
If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a ski vacation or live near a ski mountain then downhill skiing and snowboarding are going to kick your butt into shape all season long. Both sports work your core and thigh muscles as well as upper body (carrying all that gear is hard!), and you’ll improve your balance and coordination as well. You’ll be sore in places you didn’t know were possible, and the best part, you have so much fun while you’re doing it that you barely realize you are working out. As Livestrong reports, according to Harvard Medical School a person who weighs 155 pounds burns 223 calories in half an hour of downhill skiing and between 125-315 calories in 30 minutes of recreational snowboarding.
6. Cross-Country Skiing
If you don’t happen to have access to a ski mountain, then you can still enjoy the brisk outdoors on a set of skis by cross-country skiing in your own backyard. When the first snowfall hits, just grab your skis and go to a local park, football field or nature trail. You’ll burn about 500 calories in an hour and you’ll only have your legs and arms to propel you forward, so get ready for some serious cardio work.
First of all, let’s be clear, you are not going to look like an Olympic skater and you won’t be zooming around the ice like a professional hockey player. It’s not about that. Ice skating this season with your loved ones or your kids is about having fun, embracing the chilly temps, getting outside as a family and sneaking in a little workout at the same time. Plus, as you try to balance you’ll engage your core, and the more you move, the more calories you’ll burn.
Sure, the shoes look funny and it’s a “sport” you always imagine your grandma might do, but snowshoeing is actually a really good workout. When you snowshoe you’re using your leg muscles to move through heavy snow which creates resistance, and you’ll need to engage your abdominal muscles to stay balanced as you move. Put those things together and you have a seriously tough workout that has serious rewards for your body.
9. Building a Snowman (and have a snowball fight)
This is one of our fave winter fitness ideas. Perhaps the most fun and kid-friendly activity on this list, building a snowman (cue the Frozen music) is a great way to get the entire family moving outside, together. Carrying snow takes work, and inevitably you’ll end up having a snowball fight, which also burns calories. And the best perk of all, when you burst out laughing, and you will, your abs will get a bonus workout.
10. Purge Your Closet
Last but not least, if the temps drop into way-too-cold territory and you really cannot or won’t leave your house, use the chilly day as an opportunity to purge your closet. Forget spring-cleaning, do winter cleaning. As anyone who has ever spent hours rummaging through her old clothes knows, it gets your heart pumping and you’ll be working up a sweat in no time. Plus you’ll make room for a spring wardrobe and will feel accomplished even when you are cooped up inside.