By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople
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 five 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.
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!
What's your favorite outdoor winter activity?
Enjoying Winter Jogging
Does the Weather Affect Your Motivation to Exercise?
How Do You Stay Motivated in Winter?
SparkPeople Fitness Expert Nicole Nichols is an ACE-certified personal trainer and AFAA-certified group fitness instructor. You can learn more about Nicole and her workout DVDs here.