For many parts of Ontario and Quebec, it is developing into a very snowy winter. For some that is a welcome event, for others not so much. For those who are not sold on winter outdoor activities, this might be the perfect time to get out there and enjoy all that a snowy winter has to offer. Not only will it help pass the winter months away, winter activities are some of the best ways to get fit.
As long as you are dressed properly, winter activities can be more pleasant than summer activities (there are no bugs or hot humidity). As well, you do not have to bundle up to stay warm. Even a brisk walk can keep you warm enough to not need too much clothing (depending on the temperatures). The idea that your body expends more energy in the winter only holds up if you are standing around not generating any heat. However, when you exercise in the cold you do tend to push yourself a little bit harder and do not stop as much or as long, therefore expending more energy. One reason for this is the colder air enables you to exercise longer without over-heating (assuming you have not over dressed). The other reason is the environment, doing anything in snow (walking, shoveling and snowshoeing) takes more effort.
It is important to dress in layers when doing any activity outside. Start with a base layer that is next to your skin. You want it snug but not skin-tight. The purpose of this layer is to wick the moisture away from your skin. Avoid wearing cotton as it will absorb the moisture and keep you cold. Wool or polypropylene is designed, as a base layer is best. Next is an insulating layer – fleece, wool, down, or another material that will keep you warm. Last is an outer layer to protect you from the wind and rain or snow. Do not forget a hat and gloves or mitts.
One thing that you want to avoid if you are exercising in the cold is getting sweaty and hot then having to stop. When this happens, you will get chilled. This is not a problem if you are near a building or your car where you can change into dry clothes and get warm. However if you are far from that, you are vulnerable to get very cold. To avoid this, keep your exercise at a moderate effort to avoid sweating too much, and you may want to stay closer to your car or warm building. Instead of doing a 5k loop, do a shorter loop multiple times that keeps you close to a warm facility/car. It is also a good idea to go out with someone that way if someone gets hurt, there is someone who can help.
Here are some new winter activities to try.
Nordic/Cross-Country Skiing: Cross-Country skiing is one of the best workouts for fitness. It is a full body
workout and burns the most amount of calories, even more than running.
Snowshoeing: Snowshoeing does not take as much skill or equipment as skiing. It can be quite strenuous especially in deep snow. Adding ski poles engages your arms as well.
Alpine/Downhill Skiing: Downhill skiing is less aerobic than cross-country skiing or snowshoeing but it can give your legs a good strength workout.
Skating: Skating is a great option in the winter. Many communities have public skating rinks so it might be more accessible than skiing.
Hockey: Whether on an outdoor rink or on a pond, getting a group of friends together for a hockey game can be fun.
Finding an outdoor activity that you can enjoy with friends and family is not only great physically but also for your mental health.