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couples sledding

The 5 Winter Activities That Burn The Most Calories

When the weather turns cold, most of us head indoors. But hibernating all winter long won’t do you—or your fitness—any favors. Sure, you could work out at the gym, but you’ll miss out on all of the winter activities that double as killer strength and cardio workouts.

This winter, up your calorie burn and boost your fitness with these effective (and fun!) cold-weather activities. 

ice skating

1. Ice Skating

Calorie burn: About 260 calories per 30 minutes*

If you’ve attempted to ice skate as an adult, you know it calls for serious strength and balance. “You need to have good core strength to keep your body stable,” says Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., owner of TS Fitness in New York City.

Related: 9 Workout Moves For Better Balance

Plus, whether you’re skating leisurely laps around the rink or competing in a recreational hockey league, ice skating builds cardiovascular endurance and gets you moving in different planes of motion. “Most of the time, we’re stuck in the sagittal [forward-and-back] plane,” Tamir says. Skating encourages you to spend more time in the transverse, or rotational plane of motion, and recruit muscles that don’t normally get much attention. 

Turn up the burn: If you’re a confident skater, keep an athletic stance (squat down and lean forward) and use your arms to help you drive forward. This will turn your leisurely skate time into more of a full-body workout, says Chris Gagliardi, M.S., C.S.C.S., resource center manager for the American Council on Exercise. “The more purposefully you move on skates, the more of your body you incorporate,” he explains. 

mother and kids sledding

2. Sledding

Calorie burn: Also about 260 calories per 30 minutes 

If you’ve ever gone sledding, you know that it takes some physical effort. Sure, the trip down the hill is a thrill, but what goes down must come up. “Getting that sled to the top of the hill is like walking up a sand dune,” Tamir says. “Your body has to work extra hard because of the changing surface, as well as [the] incline.” The result: You’re huffing and puffing by the time you reach the top.

Turn up the burn: If walking uphill in the snow isn’t enough of a workout for you, have someone (preferably someone small) sit in the sled and you pull them up, suggests Gagliardi. Or, throw some snow in the sled to add a little extra weight.

family walking in the snow

3. Walking In The Snow

Calorie burn: Roughly 149 calories per 30 minutes 

As long as you have the right gear, there’s no reason you can’t go for a walk outside in the snow. In fact, thanks to the added resistance, walking through snow is an even better workout than your usual stroll. It’s like walking through water, Gagliardi says. So bundle up and take a loop around the neighborhood!

Turn up the burn: Look for winter hiking trails in your area. Walking the uneven terrain of hiking trails not only recruits your muscles in different ways, but may boost your calorie burn by 28 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Just make sure to check trail conditions before you go, dress in appropriate cold-weather gear, and bring water and a cell phone in case of emergency. 

man shoveling snow

4. Shoveling

Calorie burn: About 223 calories per 30 minutes

If you normally use a snowblower or pay someone to clear your driveway, consider pulling out the shovel instead. If there’s a lot of snow out there, you’ll quickly remember why shoveling is such a serious cardio and strength workout. “It involves your whole body,” Gagliardi says, though you’ll likely feel extra-sore in your legs, back, and shoulders the next day.

Related: 6 Kettlebell Moves That Work Every Muscle

If you have existing back or shoulder issues, be aware that shoveling can cause pain or injury if you overdo it. Know your limitations and take care not to twist or jerk suddenly. Tamir even suggests doing a brief warm-up (like jumping jacks) before heading out to shovel. “So many people hurt their backs because they jump right into it,” he explains. “Plus, usually it’s cold out, which stiffens your muscles.”

Turn up the burn: If you’re good to go, play with time and speed to create an interval shoveling workout, suggests Tamir. Shovel with effort for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat until you’ve cleared the snow. Regularly switch the shovel from your dominant side and play around with your hand position to hit various muscle groups.

family cross country skiing

5. Cross-Country Skiing

Calorie burn: About 298 calories per 30 minutes

Cross-country skiing is a great way to get in a steady-state cardio workout. In fact, the average person burns about as many calories as they would jogging, according to Harvard Medical School.

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Unlike jogging, though, cross-country skiing offers the added benefit of strengthening your entire body as you use all four limbs to propel yourself forward. “Even though you’re in skis, which are designed to reduce friction, you’re overcoming resistance to do the activity,” Gagliardi explains. 

Turn up the burn: “Push faster and take longer strides,” Tamir says. Also, look for routes that have slight hills for an added challenge.

*for the average 150-pound person

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