Heat Up Your Winter Exercise Routine With These Cold Weather Activities
By Mark Maule, MS, SPN, CFT, YFT
Adjunct Faculty, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences

As winter progresses and the wind chills dip below the freezing mark, many individuals avoid outdoor workouts. Rather, they turn to elliptical machines, treadmills, and weight machines for cardiorespiratory and muscular development routines, so as to not endure the extreme temperatures. While these indoor options are logical when attempting to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, they do not have to be the only type of activities used to enhance fitness during the winter season. In fact, exercising outdoors in the winter could be just as sound a method to improve overall health.

One activity in particular that adults regularly overlook is sledding. For the purpose of this article, sledding refers to walking through knee deep (or more) snow up a hill, riding the sled to the bottom, and then completing the entire process repeatedly for at least a few hours. Sledding promotes intense use of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. In turn, the body can gain tremendous anaerobic activity through large energy expenditure movements. Sledding with family or other adults for several hours can burn up to several thousand calories, dependent upon the intensity with which you race up and down the hill.

Another activity that is highly beneficial toward improving wintertime health is constructing snow people, buildings, forts, or sculptures. As with sledding, many adults overlook this activity because it is generally considered one for children. However, it can have significant impact upon overall health. Building snow projects promotes a full body workout that involves the following muscle groups: deltoids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. As the snowball accumulations become larger, the intensity and anaerobic benefit increases when more musculature is recruited to aid the activity. Once again, thousands of calories can be burned in a single afternoon depending on the intensity level.

Yet another activity that can be beneficial during the winter months, depending on accessibility, is ice fishing. You may generally envision ice fishing as sitting on a bucket, using minimal movement to tempt fish into biting. However, ice fishing can be one of the best full body exercise routines, involving a great deal of musculature for higher energy burns through aerobic and anaerobic means. First, pick a spot to fish that requires at least 20 to 30 minutes of walking to get there. Walking in winter boots, a heavy winter jacket (and all the accessories), carrying the gear (up to 30 pounds or more), and through snowdrift-covered terrain can burn up to twice as many calories as regular walking, develops cardiorespiratory fitness, and promotes muscular endurance. Once you have reached your destination, a series of hand-drilled holes with designated augers will need to be drilled, as fish generally move from place to place to feed. This activity requires intense application of the biceps, triceps, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and all core muscles for short bursts (up to a minute at most). After several hours of fishing, you not only have to walk the 20 to 30 minutes back from your destination, but—if you are lucky—you will have an additional 30 pounds of fish to carry. As with the other activities mentioned, a significant amount of calories can be burned in a single afternoon, depending on how hard you are willing to work to find the fish.

Although the comforts of being indoors can provide the means for a necessary workout during the winter months, do not overlook the incredible benefits to be had from bundling up and enjoying outdoor activities. Muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiorespiratory fitness, and the opportunity to burn many calories are just a few of these benefits. So, get out and go sledding, build some snow projects, and go ice fishing to heat up your winter exercise routines...


Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

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