Javier Sanchez-Mariscal - As the days get shorter and colder, being motivated to engage in a daily fitness regimen is harder than ever. After a long day of work, cuddling up in our sweats with a warm beverage is tempting. So tempting that people put on a few extra pounds during winter months.
Physiologically when the weather gets colder, it triggers a survival aspect within our brain causing us to eat more. With food being the focal point of most holiday gatherings, followed by the increase of stress, and balancing the added activity of holiday traveling and people pleasing; it’s no wonder we may have to buy clothes in bigger sizes.
It is easy to make excuses during the winter months on why we shouldn’t exercise. From the cold weather, shorter days, holiday planning, etc. any excuse is better than lacing up your shoes and hitting the pavement. However, you don’t work hard all summer long getting into bikini-body shape to let 3 or 4 months ruin all that hard work. Instead, recruit a buddy or group of friends and find fun ways to stay active. Working out in groups or with a friend provides support, motivation, and accountability for long-term success.
Here are 9 fun-filled winter activities you can do with your friends to stay fit:
Walking or Jogging
Although it might sound crazy, running in the cold is actually the most ideal condition to run in. According to Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist, sports performance coach and author of The Marathon Method, "the colder the weather, the less heat stress on the body, which makes it significantly easier to run.” In comparison, running in hot and humid weather is extremely hard on the body. This is why more marathons are scheduled during cooler months.
If running or jogging isn’t your cup of tea, try grabbing a running buddy and/or form a running group, and sign up for a holiday race. During the holidays there are tons of festive 5K races and marathons. Some include dressing up in holiday-themed gear and others build awareness or raise money for charities. This is a great way to have fun, stay motivated, and most importantly, stay fit.
Grab your gloves and beanies and get those boards out of storage because it is time to hit the slopes! Not only will snowboarding tone your legs, arms, and stomach muscles, but during 6 hours of the activity you can burn up to 3,000 calories! Reaching high elevations and working up a sweat will increase your heart rate, which improves your cardiovascular system. From an increased heart rate, you will boost blood circulation thus bringing more nutrients and oxygen into your body. This process removes waste quickly and produces more capillaries, which allows your muscles to expand and burn calories.
Snowshoeing is a hybrid between cross-country skiing and running. It is a perfect exercise for all types of fitness levels, which is great for a large group of friends – no one will feel intimidated or discouraged. While participating in this activity, you can burn anywhere from 360-860 calories per hour, build stamina, and tone your muscles. Since the movements are similar to running, it is said that snowshoeing is a great way to condition your body for running, and even helps runners improve their fitness. While maintaining low impact on your joints as you perform the movement, snowshoeing helps build muscle and definition from the added resistance of the snowshoes.
If scaling ice glaciers is more your speed, ice climbing is the winter sport for you and your friend. Based off the sport of rock climbing, this extreme sport requires proper training and equipment to prepare and keep you safe as you as climb frozen waterfalls. If you’re up for the challenge, it is a must-try activity.
While encompassing many of the health benefits of snowboarding, downhill skiing focuses on improving muscle strength and endurance. This high-intensity exercise burns about 300 calories per hour, while focusing on all your major muscle groups.
Ice-skating is not just an activity for hand-holding couples; it welcomes groups of friends and families as well. Skating is a serious cardio and strength building activity. This aerobic activity will stimulate the heart and allow you to burn top calories quickly. With a combined focus of core balance, and leg and arm strengthening, you will build muscle, burn calories, and do it all without placing stress on your joints.
Similar to snowshoeing, cross-country skiing will work every part of your body, from your biceps to your quads with little to no stress on your joints. The appeal of this activity is that you can perform this from literally anywhere! Burning up to 560 calories per hour, you can make this exercise as intense or as leisurely as you want.
Either on ice or in the cul-de-sac of your neighborhood, it doesn’t take much to start a pick-up game of hockey. You could even grab a bunch of friends or join a winter league. Hockey is a great cardiovascular activity that increases your heart rate, burns fat, and improves blood circulation. With alternating high-intensity bursts of activity with moments of recovery, hockey is a perfect example of interval training, which continues to burn calories even after the game is done.
Nothing is more fun than flying through the air at full speed, bombing down a mountain. It may be hard to believe, but as you are climbing that hill with your sled in hand, your heart rate is rising and you are burning calories. You are never too old to grab your friends and family and participate in an afternoon of fun. After a few hours of thrill, you will be surprised to find that you can burn up to 450 calories! Not to mention the soreness and strength building in your legs from all that climbing.
As easy as it may be to make excuses not to exercise, recruiting a friend to bear the cold with will make staying active a whole lot easier. Try to see the winter season as an opportunity to partake in a new activity. Switch up your gym going with outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, sledding, cross-country skiing, and even ice climbing! Odds are you will stay motivated and have a lot more fun.