It’s hard to be motivated in the wintertime. It’s cold outside and it’s warm inside — all you want to do is sit by the fire with your new Kindle Fire. But then you look down and it’s hard to ignore your too-tight pants and those newly formed love handles around your midsection.
Winter is, however, convenient for those who want to work out without working out. Our winter activities and chores are like workouts in themselves, and while some might be tiresome (like shoveling), others are fun (like snowball fights).
Instead of sticking yourself on a treadmill or lifting free weights in your basement, get outside and move. Play outside, join in an outdoor winter sport, or just do the activities that winter calls you to do: shovel your driveway, scrape your car, and take your dog for a walk (or snow trudge.) Depending on intensity, duration and body mass, these activities can be huge calorie-busters.
Nancy Carlson, owner and trainer at Get Fit NH, incorporates many of these activities (or at least the fun ones) in her outdoor winter boot camps (www.getfitnhbootcamp.com). Carlson advises taking part in the winter activities in which you’ll move your body the most.
Snowball fights, sledding, making snow angels, pulling a sled full of kids or just trekking through the white stuff can burn a ton of calories and provide an excellent workout, if the intensity is there.
Kathy Nourse can attest to that; Nourse took part in Carlson’s winter boot camp last year, which she said provided a much different workout than something like running on a treadmill or lifting weights.
“That’s not to say that it was easier or more difficult; it’s the same difference in running on pavement vs. running on sand,” Nourse said. The number of calories burned is dependent on the aggressiveness with which you run.
In working out in the snow, you move different body muscles than you’re used to using. And then there is the chunky snow apparel and, of course, the cold. The temperature has a lot to do with the number of calories burned, Carlson said, because your body has to work in order to maintain a proper temperature.
Working out outside — or, really, playing outside — is also fun.
“They make it so it’s all about having fun while you work out,” Nourse said of the Get Fit NH Boot camp. Nourse said participants performed in obstacle courses involving snow angels, snowballs, lugging tires through the snow, and getting up and out of the snow. It was like a game. They split into relay teams, running up and down snow hills, sliding on their stomachs — basically playing outside like kids.
“It was fun, challenging, and it’s good to get a different perspective in how you can work out outside, and it doesn’t have to feel like a workout. I loved it,” she said.
In burning serious calories during the wintertime, Carlson says, the best thing you can do is find something you love doing — and again, the activities in which you move your body the most are the ones in which you’ll burn the most calories.
Downhill skiing is great for the legs and core, with a 155-pound person burning approximately 440 calories per hour. Cross-country skiing is even better, and you’ll probably burn closer to 600 calories an hour, as your whole body is in motion. In snowshoeing, you have to pick up your feet to stay steady, which requires strong legs and core. This activity also causes someone 155 pounds to burn almost 600 calories per hour, according to a Harvard Health letter.
Hockey burn lots of calories because playing it requires movement from every single body part.
“And snowball fights, well, they’re something that nobody is going to think of how many calories they’re burning while playing; it’s just fun,” Carlson said. “But even just walking through the snow will burn more calories than walking [without snow].”
Shoveling probably won’t be the top workout choice, but if you want to burn calories, well, shoveling is something that probably needs to get done anyway. Why not kill two birds with one stone? You use your legs, back and arms while shoveling snow, but of course, the calories you burn will vary depending on whether the snow is heavy or light and fluffy, Carlson said. Harvard Health listed snow shoveling as something a 155-pound person can burn almost 500 calories per hour doing. Chopping and splitting wood burns about 440 calories an hour, operating a snowblower (while walking) burns about 320 calories per hour, and playing with kids (at a vigorous effort) can burn about 300 calories per hour for that 155-pound person. Of course, again, the number of calories burned still depends on intensity.
Carlson knows that it’s difficult to remain motivated in the wintertime, but exercising can help boost motivation and keep endorphins high.
“So many people face the blues in the winter, but exercise is something that can help with depression — in terms of keeping out of it,” Carlson said.