Winter is a particularly challenging time for those trying to keep their body in shape. The low temperatures tend to keep people inside most of the time, there is a lot of great food to tempt us during the holidays, and since we all wear more clothes that can easily hide those few extra pounds, we tend to become less concerned with the way we look.
If you don’t want to be one of those people who suddenly start obsessing about their weight when spring comes and people start wearing less and less clothing, then I suggest doing some outdoor exercises during the winter. A good workout doesn’t have to be a grueling experience and you don’t even need to find the extra time to drive to and from the gym—there are number of fun outdoor activities that are very effective at helping you lose that holiday gut. Besides, exercising outside in cold weather has some unique advantages: your body burns additional calories just trying to keep itself warm, and being active during the cold months also helps you keep all the nasty illnesses at bay. So, let’s look at some great outdoor winter exercises.
Running is generally considered to be one of the best outdoor exercises—you can improve cardiovascular health, gain endurance or explosiveness depending on how you train, and develop some nice-looking legs. Running in cold weather can be a fun experience for a number of reasons: there are fewer people around to stare at you, the snow can add an additional level of difficulty, and you won’t overheat or dehydrate as easily as you would during the hot summer months. Besides these obvious benefits, there is something to be said about the beautiful look of a city covered in snow that people rarely take the time to appreciate.
One of the more physically demanding sports out there, cross-country skiing engages pretty much all the muscles of your body and requires some serious endurance. It’s a great sport to get involved in, but you can also just have a few friends come along for a fun afternoon without really competing against each other. You need to invest more money into this sport than you would with some of the other options on this list, but it is well worth it.
Ice skating is great for everyone looking for a way to get some low-impact exercise—from toddlers to granddads and grandmas. It can greatly strengthen your legs, particularly the inner thighs that don’t really get worked too often, and won’t put any unnecessary stress on your joints—well, technically, you could fall, and wrist and ankle sprains have been known to happen, but as long as you are careful it is a pretty safe way to stay active during the winter.
If you live in a colder climate, there are few physical activities you can do during the winter that can come even close to the level of fun and conditioning that you will get from playing ice hockey. You only need a few pieces of equipment, some ice and a bunch of people who are tired of sitting inside all day, and you can spend a whole afternoon burning calories while having fun. After an hour on the ice you won’t need to feel bad for reaching for that big cup of hot chocolate—at that point you’ve earned it.
For those of you who prefer hanging out with other people and working with a team rather than going out for a long run on your own, a good old snowball fight can be a great way to get in some light to moderate cardio during the winter. You combine short bursts of running that give your legs a good workout with throwing motions that engage the arms and the core, which makes for a decent workout. This is probably the most fun of all outdoor exercises. Add to this the fact that snowball fights can last a pretty long time, since everyone is having a lot of fun, and you can end up burning up a good part of those holiday dinner calories.
If you have small children or you are visiting family members with small children, then there is no better way to have fun while getting a great exercise than pulling sleds. You basically just have a few kids hop on a sled, grab the rope and start pulling them across the snow. Your legs, core and upper body will all benefit from this exercise and you will build up some stamina as well.
This form of exercise dates back to the very roots of our species, and was for a long time an integral part of our survival. The important thing to remember is to dress in layers, have good hiking boots and spend some time on preparations. A good long hike will tire you out quite a bit, particularly in cold weather, so it is good to have a bunch of snacks with you. The best thing about it is that you will be spending so much energy walking uphill with extra weight on your back, finding firewood and preparing a fire, plus having your body working tirelessly to keep warm, that you can afford to have a big meal when you set up camp. Be sure to pack a first aid kit, signal flare and several fire-starting options to keep things on the safe side.
Wrestling can tire you out pretty quickly, especially if you go all out and move fast. The great thing about winter is that there is a lot of snow that serves as a natural cushion for your falls, so you don’t have to worry too much about anyone getting injured. You don’t even have to know the first thing about wrestling—just grab your partner and try to off-balance them and bring them to the ground. Even a quick two-to-three-minute wrestling session will have you gasping for air and your muscles burning if you are not used to it.
These are some of the best activities that combine exercise and fun, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box and come up with your own unique outdoor exercise for the cold months. The most important thing is to stay active, stay healthy and avoid the near hibernation that most people fall into during winter.
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