6 Winter Workouts That Don’t Feel Like Exercise

Winter workouts outdoors can be a great way to boost you calorie burn.

As the temperature outside plummets, it’s tempting to skip your workout, queue up Netflix, and stay snuggled up all day. Try not to give in, though. Even if you don’t feel like going out for a run or hitting the gym, there are some serious benefits to getting outdoors and getting your blood pumping, even when it’s cold. “Being in nature is so much better for you mentally than staring at a screen or getting sick in a germ-filled gym,” notes Meghan Kennihan, a National Academy of Sports Medicine-Certified Personal Trainer in Chicago. The Mayo Clinic echoes that, stating that spending time outside—even on cloudy days—is key for combating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Still not convinced? Here are six trainer-approved ideas for enjoyable winter activities that are so much fun, they won’t feel like exercise. Just remember to dress in breathable layers, and you’ll be ready to brave the elements.  

1. Playing Broomball

Calories burned: 400-600 calories/hour*

If you’ve always wanted to play hockey, but think the equipment is too much of an investment, consider broomball instead. All you’ll need is a broomball stick (brooms aren’t actually used anymore) and some special sticky shoes. With two 18-minute action-packed halves in each game, you’ll rack up plenty of steps even when subbing in and out with your teammates. With recreational leagues popping up around the country, broomball might just be your new favorite winter pastime.

2. Sledding

Calories burned: 400-600 calories/hour*

Remember how much fun it was to pull the toboggan out of the garage as a kid? Back then calories torched didn’t cross your mind, but Kennihan swears trekking uphill is a serious workout. “You can burn significant calories while having family bonding time,” she says. “The cruising downhill part is not the burner (except for the core work you get from steering), but trekking back works your glutes, hamstrings, and quads just as hard as squats.”

3. Winter Hiking

Calories burned: 350-520 calories/hour*

Who says you can only hike when it’s warm out? Bundle up, grab a friend and hit the trail. You’ll probably have the wilderness to yourselves this time of year. Plus, if there’s snow on the ground, you’ll be getting extra resistance and really working your legs. Hit the “Hike” option in your Fitbit app to track your workout, and get going (or reclassify the activity in your exercise log later). Just make sure you have insulated shoes and warm socks to keep your feet dry.

4. Snowshoeing

Calories burned: 470-700 calories/hour*

If just going for a walk isn’t enough motivation to get you out the door, look up where you can go snowshoeing nearby. It’s a cardio-based, heart healthy workout that pushes your endurance while building strength and forcing you to work on balance and agility. Depending on the depth and firmness of snow, you can blast 600 to 700 calories an hour, all while enjoying time in a park or forest reserve near you. (Be sure to select “Snowshoeing” when you manually log or reclassify the activity in your Fitbit app later.)

5. Shoveling Snow

Calories burned: 200-300 calories/hour*

You probably think of shoveling as a chore, but there’s no question it involves heavy lifting. So grab a shovel, pop in some headphones, and work up a sweat. “Don’t treat it as drudgery, put on some music, get a rhythm, and start shoveling,” says Miller. One note of caution: pay attention to posture. Even though you’re not in a gym, you can fall victim to injury from poor form. “Shoveling is a great workout, but it’s also very easy to hurt yourself if you don’t make sure to have stable footing and lift with your legs as much as possible.” Stay firm-footed and clearing your driveway could be a key way to work your core, arms, and legs—and even squeeze in cardiovascular training.

6. Building A Snowman

Calories burned: 200-300 calories/hour*  

Even the delightfully silly task of putting together a massive snowman can count as exercise if you work hard enough. “This activity requires you to bear crawl while pushing a progressively heavier ball around, and then lift and place the ball,” Miller explains. “It’s such a great full-body workout that I almost want to find a way to simulate it for my clients even when winter ends.” Round up the family, pull the kids away from the tube, and get in your steps as you build your very own Olaf—just don’t forget the carrot!

*Estimated calories burned based on a 130-190 pound person performing each activity for one hour.  

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  • When my wife and I shovel the snow off our back deck and porch this winter , my Charge 2 will register the activity whether I wear it or my wife , but her Alta HR , which I got her for Christmas, will not register activity for her but if I wear it , it will . I’m sure I have it set up the same as my Charge 2 . Also her everyday, around the home activity, like vacuuming etc , won’t give activity reading either

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