Many of us have a strained relationship with cardio. Sure, we know it’s good for our heart and our waistline, but my god, at what cost. From the monotonous jog on the treadmill to the slightly more enjoyable spin class, cardio workouts often have the motivation-sucking combo of being both boring and hard. And that’s when the weather is good. There’s always a few poor souls who write off cardio all together when winter brings in the snow and cold.
However, we’re not one of those people. We’re committed, and we know that no matter how dark and dreary those short winter days are, we have to do some cardio. Chapped lips and tight muscles be damned, we know the benefits are worth it. In fact, working out in the cold has some added benefits. Cold weather forces the body to burn through glycogen faster, which means you’ll torch even more fat working out in the cold than if you were doing the same workout in a warm environment.
If you’re short on ideas for cardio workouts in the winter, check out our list of favorite winter cardio activities.
1. Ice Skating
Ice skating is a great way to strengthen the lower body muscles as it’ll target your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and core as well as all the muscles running up and down the spinal column. Skating can be done individually, or even better, get a group of friends together for a game of drop-in hockey. Light to moderate skating will burn 400 calories or more per hour. Unless you skate often, ice skating will work your muscles in new and different ways, and will add some variety to your training.
2. Cross-Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing is one of the best cardiovascular workouts you can do. It’s one of the few activities that works both your upper and lower body at the same time. A person can burn upwards of 1,000 calories an hour cross-country skiing. Many places have cross-country ski rentals, so you don’t have to buy any expensive equipment if you only plan on hitting the trails a few times a year. Cross-country skiing can be done in most conditions, but you may want to avoid the trails when it’s warmer and the snow is heavy and wet.
3. Downhill Skiing
Most people look at downhill skiing as more of a recreational sport than a cardio workout. Compared to Cross-country skiing, downhill skiing is definitely easier and often a lot more fun. However, you may be surprised at how your body feels after a long day on the slopes. A Harvard study showed that a person can burn as many as 266 calories in just 30 minutes of downhill skiing.
A day on the slopes will work all of your lower body muscles, your core muscles, as well as your back, chest and shoulders. Like cross-country skiing, equipment can be expensive to purchase. But most ski resorts offer reasonable rentals that take away any excuses you may have to stay inside, watching the snow fall sipping your hot cocoa.
Snowshoeing is an excellent choice for those who are a little fearful of falling while skiing. An afternoon snowshoeing will burn almost the same number of calories as cross-country skiing. Snowshoeing can also be done almost anywhere, so it’s a great option for those who don’t have any ski trails or hills nearby. Plus, the equipment is slightly cheaper than skiing, so it’s good for those on a budget. Snowshoeing will get your heart rate up and keep it there while working all the muscles in the lower body as well as the core. You’re easily looking at around a 500-600 calorie burn per hour with this activity.
5. Snow Shoveling
While it may not top the list of fun winter activities you could be doing, snow shoveling is something that must get done from time to time. But shoveling snow is an excellent workout, and knowing that your burning a ton of calories may be just enough motivation for you to clear off your driveway after a snowstorm.
Shoveling snow will get your heart pumping and will really work your upper body. If you’re lifting snow rather than pushing it, remember to lift with your legs and not your back. Also, be sure that you’re stabilizing yourself with your lower body before you shovel. This will reduce the chances of slipping and falling, potentially causing injury.