Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean we all have to hibernate like bears. Some of the most fun physical activities can only be done in the winter time when the temperatures plunge, and snow falls in piles. Even though these activities will all help improve our physical health, it’s sometimes hard to get motivated when it’s freezing outside.
It’s important to maintain regular physical activity throughout the winter, to keep our heart rate up, which in turn will help decrease our risks for heart diseases like heart failure, and coronary artery disease. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and staying away from harmful habits like drinking excessively and smoking are the best ways we know to avoid heart disease.
Use the long evening hours this winter to pick up a new healthy activity, like some of these fun options below.
Skiing or Snowboarding
Some of the most popular winter sports are centered around the slopes. Almost everyone who grew up in the northern part of the United States is familiar with either skiing or snowboarding.
Although they do require a good amount of specialized gear, the good part about these sports is that the gear is so large and unwieldly that almost every ski hill has a shop where you can rent the equipment. Plus, it’s important that the ski boots that snap into the skis fit perfectly because if they’re too loose, you’ll be at risk for severe ankle injuries.
If you prefer downhill skiing and snowboarding to the more sedate cross-country skiing, you’ll be shown to several marked pistes (ski runs) that are cut into the slope. These usually range from green circle (often called bunny hills) slopes to double black diamonds slopes, reserved for experts only.
Winter is a great time to explore some of the local swimming pools in your area that are often neglected during the warmer summer months. Swimming can be done year-round, but there’s something soothing about slipping into warm water in the winter.
Swimming is a great form of exercise for someone who wants to keep active but doesn’t want to strain their joints. Unlike running, swimming doesn’t put any pressure on sensitive knee and ankle joints, making it the perfect way to increase your heart rate without additional strain.
Since there are 309,000 public swimming pools in the United States you just need to find the one closest to you. Plus, don’t forget to invest in some goggles as an hour underwater in a chlorinated pool will do a number on your eyes.
Tobogganing isn’t just for children and drunk college kids! It’s a super-fun activity that also really gets your heart rate going. Sure, you can go to a local ski hill and pay an entrance fee to use their toboggan slope (it’s a popular alternative to skiing or snowboarding), or you could do some sleuthing around your neighborhood and find a popular local location. It doesn’t take much to make a great toboggan hill. Actually, if you’re walking up the hill instead of being ferried by a lift, you’ll probably wish the hill was less steep after a few times up and down.
There are a ton of different options for sleds and toboggans — technically, they’re the same except a toboggan curls up in the front, and a sled is totally flat. An inner tube will give you tons of speed but watch you don’t get bounced off! A snow saucer is fun if you have a freeway down; otherwise, they’re impossible to steer.
Ice skates have been in use for thousands of years. In fact, research suggests that ice skating got its start in Finland more than 4,000 years ago. The first skates were pieces of sharpened bone attached to the shoe, but eventually, it became a popular pastime all over Europe. When settlers came to the New World, they brought the practice with them.
If you live somewhere where thick ice can freeze outdoors, you may be able to partake in the joys of outdoor skating. In cities like Ottawa, Canada, and all over the Netherlands, entire canal systems are given way to enthusiastic skaters all winter long.
If you can’t skate outdoors, you can still skate on man-made ice in an arena. Many arenas rent skates, and it’s not too hard to learn. Just make sure you wear a thickly-padded coat and gloves since learning involves a lot of falling down.
If you live in a snowy part of the country, you may be familiar with the necessary evil of shoveling snow in the winter months. Driveways and sidewalks have to be cleared, and many cities hold homeowners responsible for clearing not only their property but the public walkways that adjoin their lot.
Shoveling snow has been known to increase the heart rate. Although it may not seem like it, shoveling can be more strenuous than running on a treadmill for some people. Due to how strenuous this activity can be, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers of shoveling snow. The intense physical activity spikes the heart rate just as the cold outside air constricts blood vessels. This can lead to an increased risk for heart attack.
If you do shovel snow, make sure you’re taking more frequent, lighter, loads, and are drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Invest in Indoor Exercise Equipment
The winter is a great time to invest in some at-home exercise equipment. It’s tempting to stay indoors under a blanket, but there are definitely ways that you can get a workout in without leaving your house.
There are tons of options for apps like Sweat With Kayla, Official 7 Minute Workout, and Pear Personal Coach, all of which offer a variety of different exercise routines that you can complete at home with a minimum of equipment.
If you feel like investing in some basic equipment, buy a yoga mat, a set of resistance bands, and a set of light weights. These are really all you’ll need to work out without leaving the comfort of home. Just make sure to take it easy when you first get started. Without any instructor there to monitor your form, injuries can occur.
Skeleton or Luge
Depending on where you live, you may be able to access more professional winter sliding sports like skeleton or luge. These sports involve going down a long track on an aerodynamic piece of equipment known as a bobsleigh, luge, or skeleton. The aim is to get the fastest time of all the competitors, and riders regularly see speeds of over 80 mph.
Skeleton was added to the permanent Olympic Roster in 2002, and it’s easy to see why — it’s one of the most exciting and dangerous winter sports around.
If you’re interested in getting started, you’ll need to find a local track, and either a team or a coach as these are not sports that you want to get involved in without advance preparation.
Indoor Sports League
Winter is a great time to beat the doldrums by getting out there and meeting new people. One of the best ways to get physical activity and meet new friends is through an adult indoor sports league. Indoor soccer, badminton, volleyball, and racquetball are all popular sports that are played with either a partner or team. The boost in energy you’ll get playing just a few times a week will really help the long, cold nights of winter go by faster.
Check out local community centers, gyms, and other meet up groups for a roster of activities.
Dance with Friends
Whether your venue of choice is a hopping nightclub or a community dance class, dancing with friends anywhere will help boost your heart rate and give a ton of other tangible fitness benefits. Dancing improves muscle tone, strength, and flexibility. It also helps improve mental acuity as dancers have to remember the order of steps, then coordinate their movements with a partner. This combination of physical and mental exercise can lead to increased self-confidence and self-esteem.
This winter, make a point of moving your body to music on a regular basis. From salsa to hip-hop to ballet, there are so many different styles to choose from. You just need to pick one that interests you.