Winter Workouts & Wellness: The Ultimate Guide to Cold Weather Fitness

best-winter-running-gearNo matter how much we might want to once the cold snaps, we can’t hibernate. Instead, we’re tasked with finding ways to stay warm, happy, and healthy during the winter months when all we want to do is crawl right back under the covers. But working out during this time of year is especially important: when you work out in the winter, your body repays you with benefits that last all year round.

Why Should I Stick to My Winter Workout Routine?

While it’s easy to hide your body under warm jackets and thick fabrics, your body needs you to stay active during the winter. Here’s why:

  • To improve your immune system: moderate, consistent exercise has been shown to improve your immunity against diseases like upper respiratory infections (simple math: add running to subtract snot).
  • To improve your mood: About 10 million Americans are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) annually. Fresh air and exercise are proven to prevent it. The winter is SAD’s showtime, so getting out for a walk or a workout is one way to yank it offstage.
  • To help you balance out holiday indulgences: An extra 200 calories a day in the holiday season packs on pounds. And who are we to tell you to only eat the joyless and bland turkey with no trimmings (in moderation)? Working out is your key to reducing guilt (and keeping your waistline where you want it).

Kicking the Winter Blues

The first step to staying in shape is actually wanting to get out of bed. The winter blues, regardless of their intensity, are real and can make cold mornings turn into duvet days like that. A healthy mind is the gateway to a healthy body. So, what can you do to keep the cold from creeping in?

  • Sleep: The most important thing you can do to stay fit and healthy? Nothing at all. Sleep and rest are so important this time of year: they help your body adjust to the cold, strengthen its immune system, and reset your brain so it can recharge for the next day.
  • Artificial light: For those of us who really do have winter depression, there’s artificial sunlight. A light therapy box emits UV rays through a filter, allowing us to trick our brain into producing the serotonin usually produced in real sunlight. (Ask your doctor before purchasing one.)
  • Eat right: We already talked about holiday cheat meals (and they’re okay in moderation–no one is expecting you to eat leaves while everyone else is gorging on ham!), but choosing your food consciously can have an affect on your brain. Check out this list of foods that can boost your serotonin (and work them into your diet this season).

Winter Workout Hacks to Try This Fit-mas

The key to winter fitness is making it fun. Snow is a resistance tool: working out in it will help you burn calories faster. Plus, it’s fun for the whole family! Here are the stats (measurements are dependent upon bodyweight):

Cross Country Skiing: 400-600 calories per hour.

Cross country skiing may not look like much, but it’s a tough workout (and works nearly every part of your body). Grab a pair of skis and skate for an hour and you’ll find yourself pulling off your winter jacket in no time.

Downhill Skiing: Up to 400 calories per hour.

Plus, the thigh burn! Downhill skiing is less intense on your entire body than cross country, but it’s tough on your thighs, knees, and calves. Skip the apres beer, though, and opt for a warm cider or black coffee instead.

Snowboarding: Up to 400 calories per hour.

If you prefer the board, it’ll still give you about the same workout. The key: it all depends on how hard you shred! If you’re going for a leisurely downhill ride, you’re going to have an easier day on the mountain.

Sledding: Up to 400 calories per hour.

It’s not about the ride down, but the walk back up that makes this one a good workout. It’s like running sprints: revving up your system on the uphill, and giving your body time to reset on the way back down. Plus, it’s fun!

Snowball Fights: 130 calories in 15 minutes!

No one’s going to snowball fight for an hour. But that 15 minute impromptu friendly fire will make your body work and your face hurt from smiling.

Shoveling Snow: Up to 600 calories per hour.

Look, it’s not the most glamorous one on the list, but someone’s gotta do it, and if you’re trying to get fit, it might as well be you.

Is snow not your thing? Come into one of our locations and try working out somewhere warm. And if you’re new to Jersey Strong, we invite you to try this free pass to make sure our gyms are right for you. Happy winter!