The next time you’re tempted to hit the treadmill when the temperature dips, consider this: Working out in cold weather may actually burn more calories than working out where it’s warm. A study from the University of Utah found that basal (resting) metabolic rate increases in cold temperatures because staying warm requires more work from your body.
To make your favorite cold-weather activities feel more like work and less like play—after all, you’re mixing up your gym routine not taking a day off—track your progress. Before you hit the snowy trails, strap on a heart rate monitor (I love the Polar RS300X because it displays your heart rate and has a GPS to measure your speed, distance, and pace). Once your gear is set, try these winter activities to burn extra body fat when the mercury drops.
1. Snowshoeing provides cardio plus strength, agility, balance, and endurance. Your legs will burn after snowshoeing, and you’ll get to see some beautiful scenery. Calories burned in 30 minutes: 300*.
2. Cross-country skiing is a total-body workout. Elliptical addicts have nothing on cross-country skiers. In fact, Nordic skiing, in which you ski up hills, burns more calories than any other exercise or sport. Plus, it combines endurance and balance with cardio and strength. Calories burned in 30 minutes: 600.
3. Jogging is straightforward and simple, so bundle up. A brisk jog or walk in the cold will give your metabolism a boost and burn extra calories. Stick to tree-lined trails and tall buildings to protect your face from freezing winds. Also avoid icy areas and wear warm gear that breathes so you won’t overheat. Calories burned in 30 minutes: 280.
4. Snow shoveling is a good upper-body and cardio workout. Depending upon the weight of your shovel and if you make sure to alternate your hands every five minutes, the benefits could be similar to a short kettlebell workout. Next time you have to dig out your car, strap on a heart rate monitor and you may not have to hit the gym after work. Calories burned in 30 minutes: 250.
*Calories burned are for a 180-lb person.