Winter is here, along with the temptation to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa all season long. Chilly temperatures deter many from exercising outdoors, and while some prefer to head to the gym to keep up their fitness routine, seasonal activities can also offer great full-body workouts, says TOPS Club, Inc.® (Take Off Pounds Sensibly®), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization. Consider the following activities to break out of your routine and stave off winter weight gain:
• Ski across a winter wonderland
Build up your strength while enjoying nature’s beauty. Cross-country skiing works both your upper and lower body, sculpting shoulders, arms, back, chest, abs, buttocks, and legs. Work up a refreshing sweat for more than 500 calories burned per hour.
• Fun with family and friends
Take advantage of a fresh snowfall – without spending any money – and have a snowball fight, make snow angels, and build snowmen. All count as exercise and burn 200-300 calories per hour for a 150-pound person, depending on intensity. Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have also found that laughing burns calories, too – so be silly!
• Shovel snow (carefully)
Choose this task over snowblowing to burn around 300 calories per hour. However, if you have a history of back or joint problems, heart problems, high cholesterol, or are a smoker, proceed with caution. Push the snow as you shovel, instead of lifting it out of the way, to ease pressure on your back. If you must lift, be sure to lift from your legs and not your back, and pick up small shovels of snow at a time. Remember to take frequent breaks to allow your heart rate to level.
• Skate your way to slim
Ice skating rinks, both indoors and out, offer a change of pace from the usual routine. Depending on intensity, you can burn up to 500 calories per hour. Plus, it’s a low-impact activity on the joints that also helps strengthen your core as you work to maintain balance.
• Zoom down the hills
Have fun in the snow with the entire family while working off calories as you climb to the top of a hill and sled back down. Get a great leg workout and burn nearly 400 calories per hour.
• Keep safety in mind
Remember to dress warmly and in layers; stay hydrated; keep hands, feet, and head warm with outerwear; and keep an eye on the weather forecast for snow and wind chill warnings. Sunblock is important in the winter, too. Using an SPF of 15 or higher will help protect your skin from sunburn that can occur when exercising in snow or high altitudes.
Eat a light snack an hour or two before working out, to add energy and prevent distracting hunger pangs. Ideal snack options should be low-fat and can include fruit smoothies; a few handfuls of nuts; hard-boiled eggs; and fast-digesting, high-glycemic fresh fruit like watermelon, grapes, pineapple, and bananas.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. Membership is $28 per year in the U.S., plus nominal chapter fees. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call 800.932.8677.