At this time of year, with its cold weather and long nights, many of us want to retreat indoors and hunker down until the spring comes. However, giving in to this temptation to hibernate will not do your health and fitness goals any good.
Instead, how about making the most of the winter and getting in some seasonal outdoor activity? Winter workouts can be fun, refreshing, and invigorating. They can also burn some serious calories, which is a bonus if you’re looking to lose weight or avoid holiday weight gain.
A Note on Calorie Burns
It is important to understand that any figures given for the calorie burn of a given activity are estimates only. Numerous factors affect the exact number of calories an activity will burn. These include your weight, your body composition, your age and sex, the intensity of the activity, your overall fitness level, and even your hormones and levels of certain nutrients.
One way to get a better estimate of your own calorie burn is to use a device such as a smartwatch or fitness tracker. However, even these are not 100% accurate. Instead of getting too hung up on the exact numbers, focus on challenging your body and pushing yourself a little bit harder each time.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the most calorie-torching outdoor activities you can try this winter.
Skiing is an aerobic, or cardiovascular, activity. This means that it makes your heart and lungs work harder to pump blood and oxygen to your muscles. And, since you typically ski in short bursts and then enjoy a period of rest while riding the lift back to the top of the slope, it also counts as a form of interval training. Interval training has numerous health benefits, from increasing endurance to boosting your afterburn (the number of calories your body uses post-workout.)
Head to the slopes and you’ll burn anything from 300 to 600 calories per hour of skiing.
Cross-country skiing is even more calorie-burning than its downhill counterpart. This is because when you ski cross-country, you do not have the effects of gravity helping you. All the effort must come from you.
This incredible workout is considered one of the absolute best forms of cardiovascular exercise you can do by experts. It uses a large percentage of your body’s muscles, particularly those in your legs, core, and back.
Elite cross-country skiers can burn 1000-1300 calories per hour, but even amateur cross-country skiers can easily reach 400-600 calories per hour.
Ice skating has a lot in common with dancing in that it requires balance, strength, and amazing core muscles to make it look as effortless and elegant as the pros do. But you don’t need to be an Olympic figure skater or an aspiring ice dancer to have some fun and burn some calories on the ice.
Ice skating builds cardiovascular fitness, increases endurance, and improves your balance. Since you are moving in different planes of motion to those used when you are walking or running, it also exercises muscles that may not otherwise get much attention.
As you gain confidence on the ice, you’ll be able to push yourself harder. A confident skater can burn 400-700 calories per hour.
Walking in the Snow
Walking is one of the best and yet most underrated forms of exercise. It requires no equipment beyond a comfortable pair of shoes, you can do it anywhere, and almost everyone can participate. Did you know that you’ll up the intensity of your walk, and therefore your calorie burn, just by heading out when there’s snow on the ground?
Snow adds resistance, meaning that it makes your muscles work harder and burns more calories. Depending on the terrain and your pace, you could burn up to 300 calories per hour walking in the snow.
If you want to take things to the next level, try snowshoe walking. Snowshoes are wide shoes that help you to walk on snow without sinking into it. They are designed to fit over your shoes or boots. Snowshoeing works your hips, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and thighs and can burn anything from 400 to 1000 calories per hour.
While it may not be as glamorous or fun as some of the other activities on this list, shoveling snow is a reality for many of us in the winter. Shoveling snow requires endurance, upper body strength, and some serious muscles. Your back, legs, and shoulders might feel like you’ve hit the gym the following day!
So instead of getting out the snowblower or hiring someone to do it for you, consider grabbing a shovel and clearing the snow from your driveway yourself. You’ll not only enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done, but you’ll also burn 350 - 600 calories per hour.