There’s no reason to hide indoors when the temperature drops. Outdoor winter workouts are a refreshing break from the summer heat and stuffy indoor gyms. In addition to halting winter weight gain, working out in the cold will also improve your mood,1 and ward off colds2.
But do you burn more calories in cold weather?
By itself, shivering is a pretty good workout; it’ll burn 400 calories an hour. But it’s unlikely that you’ll spend an hour standing outside in your skivvies for a ‘workout.’
Once you start moving around, the need to shiver disappears. After you’ve warmed up, exercising in the cold does not burn more calories than exercising in the heat.
However, an interesting thing does happen when you exercise in the cold…
…you’ll work harder without realizing it.
According to Michael Joyner, M.D., and expert in human performance at the Mayo Clinic, “In the cold, your body can regulate its temperature a little better, meaning you can often exercise farther or longer, so you can burn more calories.”
Here are eight ideas to get your winter workout in, along with some great tips to gear up for the cold below.
1. Walking in winter wonderland
Walking every day for at least 20 minutes should be your minimum daily routine. A 155-pound person walking a brisk 3.5 miles per hour will burn about 270 calories per hour. If you’re looking for more of a winter workout challenge, take a jaunt through deeper snow to give your quads and glutes more of a workout.
2. Hiking the trails
With summer crowds gone, you’ll feel a little greedy about having your favorite trail all to yourself. This winter workout will also lend a whole new perspective to the scenery and wildlife. Trail hiking is a great core workout; uneven trail surface engages more of your stabilizing muscles (like your abs) so you’ll work harder. Add in uphills and you can easily burn 500 or more calories per hour.
3. Snowman building
It’s hard to find an exact number for this winter workout. Rolling, lifting, and packing Frosty’s parts is probably similar shoveling snow. Clearing the driveway burns about 400 calories an hour (but isn’t as fun as snowman building). The bigger the snowman, the more you’ll work your thighs, back, and chest– and the more you’ll burn.
4. Snowball fight
Go on, throw it! Sprinting, running, ducking, and tossing snowballs can be compared to playing beach volleyball which burns about 560 calories an hour. We all know how fit volleyball players are– so there should be no doubt this is a full body workout.
5. Sledding and tubing
Nobody really thinks of this as a winter workout until they get to the sledding hill and realize that what goes down must first go up! Slogging uphill through the snow is serious work. (Especially if you don’t hitch a free ride on the rope tow or magic carpet.) You’ll burn about 492 calories an hour– tow a kid up the hill to burn more, and you’ll get a great upper body workout too.
6. Ice skating
Hit up your local ice arena, holiday rink, or frozen pond. An easy glide around the rink can burn 387 calories per hour, figure-skating will burn 492 calories per hour, and an hour of hockey will go upwards of 562 calories per hour.
Snowshoes are inexpensive and can be strapped onto most any hiking boot. You’ll get a great workout just ‘shoeing through the flatlands. Once you’ve figured out how to walk on clouds of snow, you’ll find yourself exploring uphills, jumping, and even running for the joy of it (and that’ll burn upwards of 563 calories an hour).
8. Mountain biking
You shouldn’t hang up your bike when winter comes. Even the least expensive mountain bikes are built to handle some snow and slush. Furthermore, with the fat-tire trend you’ll practically float over the snow. Just lower your tire pressure for extra traction in slick conditions. Regular mountain biking can burn a whopping 598 calories an hour; grinding through snow is sure to burn more.
Still hiding under a blanket with your hot chocolate?
If you don’t like the cold at all, check into a yoga studio. Most yoga rooms are heated; some are warmer than others. Hot yoga classes are terrific antidotes to winter cold. Yoga classes can be more challenging than you’d expect, burning from 176 to 600 calories per hour. This winter workout is also a perfect way to enter the New Year in a calm, grounded state.
Tips to gear up for your winter wokout
- Wear layers that you can remove as you warm up and put on as you cool down. A moisture-wicking base to stay dry, a thermal mid layer to keep you warm, and a water/wind-proof outer layer to protect against the elements.
- A hat is one of the best things you can wear to retain heat; it’s also easy to tuck in a pocket as you warm up.
- Use gloves to protect your hands from the cold.
- Trail runners or boots with good lugs and vibram soles will give you the best traction in slippery situations.
- Carry a flash-light or headlight with you so you won’t get caught by the early sunset.
- Stay well-hydrated; it’s easy to forget to drink water when you are exercising in the cold.
- Pay attention to trail, weather, and avalanche conditions– ask a park ranger about them before venturing in the woods.
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Which winter workout do you want to do?
Here’s a handy comparison of how these winter workouts stack up to shivering for an hour…
|Calories per hour||Exercise|
|270||Walking in the snow|
|492||Sledding / tubing|
|176 – 600||Hot yoga|
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About the Writer: 100 pounds ago, Jan knew what it is like to be obese, unhappy, and stuck. She has spent the last 17 years as a fitness writer, trainer, yoga teacher, and Weight Loss Coach. Today, she’s proud to be a part of the Personal Trainer Food team so she can continue her goal to help others live their fullest lives possible. Email Jan@PersonalTrainerFood.com if you have any questions!
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