One of the reasons it can be frustratingly hard to stay in shape and maintain a good level of fitness during the winter is that the weather often plays havoc with our traditional outdoor workouts. Running on snow and ice is never easy, and cold temperatures can make cycling a painful experience too. But the winter months also provide us with great opportunities to try out some alternative activities that are not only highly aerobic, but have been known to burn plenty of calories too.
Here are five such sports that you should keep in mind when looking for an outdoor workout this winter.
Do you like to go hiking during the warmer months of the year? If so, then chances are you’ll enjoy snowshoeing too. The sport essentially consists of walking through the snow while wearing a special set of footwear that is designed to make winter hiking far easier. Typically when you walk in snow your legs will sink into the fluffy powder, making it extremely difficult to make any progress. But snowshoes prevent you from sinking too deeply, which allows you to actually move along at a decent pace. In fact, some outdoor athletes even like to trail run in the winter while wearing snowshoes. But don’t think that this sport is just another walk in the park. You’ll still find that it makes a far better workout than a summertime hike over the same distance. In fact, if you’re moving at a brisk pace, it is possible to burn as many as 600 calories in an hour, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Fat Tire Biking
One of the fast growing outdoor sports over the past couple of years has been fat tire biking. These types of bikes look a lot like mountain bikes, but as the name implies, they have very large, oversized tires that are extremely well suited for riding over snow and ice. Turning those big wheels requires a considerable amount of physical exertion and can burn over a thousand calories in an hour, but once the “fatty” gets rolling it’ll plow over or through just about anything in its path. This makes this type of bike a lot of fun to ride during the winter, when normal bikes simply aren’t equipped to handle the conditions. Just don’t expect to go all that fast, as the 4.5+” wide tires are definitely not built for speed.
If there is one winter sport that can compare to running in terms of calories burned and providing a total-body workout, it is cross-country skiing. While gliding along on a snow-covered trail, you’ll not only work the muscles in your arms and legs but your core as well. Beyond that, it is also a great workout for your heart and lungs, providing a real boost to the cardiovascular system while having minimal impact on your joints and ligaments. This makes it a great wintertime activity for those looking to stay in shape, and while it does require a bit of skill to master, it is nowhere near as difficult to learn as downhill skiing, for instance.
Somewhat of a variant of cross-country skiing, skate skiing is even more intense and challenging. Whereas cross-country skiers enjoy taking in their surroundings as they glide along, skate skiers are all about getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. The sport gets its name from the fact that you actually push off and move more like a speed skater than a skier, and as a result the pace of the activity is greatly enhanced. That means you’ll burn even more calories, which makes it a great way to stay in shape during the winter. Even at a moderate pace, skate skiers can burn upward of 700 calories per hour, making it one of the best workouts imaginable no matter the season. It takes a bit of time and practice to get the rhythm down, but once you do, skate skiing is a fast and furious affair.
Another sport that can provide a good all-body workout is ice climbing. This activity typically involves outdoor athletes ascending frozen waterfalls or cliff faces that are covered in ice, using little more than ropes, mountaineering axes, and crampons. Because you need to use just about every part of your body to make the climb, your muscles (not to mention your nerves) will be put to the test. While not as intensely aerobic as some of the other winter sports on this list, ice climbing is nevertheless good for the heart and lungs too. Just be sure you’re accompanied by an experienced climber while you’re still working on your climbing skills, as this is one sport that isn’t for the faint of heart.
Any one of these activities will help you burn plenty of calories and allow you to stay active during the winter months. They’ll also give you a good excuse to head outdoors, which in and of itself will help you to be happier and healthier. Don’t let winter trap you inside. Find the activity that appeals to you, and go out and do it. You’ll be very happy that you did.