When the weather turns colder, it can be tough to get yourself outside for a workout. Plus, it’s dark in the morning and evening, sapping even more motivation. But although it’s chilly, sticking to your workouts will pay off big time.
Ahead, find out how to up the calorie burn this winter while also staying motivated to keep showing up to your workouts.
Do You Burn More Calories in Colder Weather?
Just because you’re not sweating buckets outside doesn’t mean that you’re not getting in a good workout. In fact, it may be quite the opposite. One study found that women burned an average of 2884 calories per day in temperate climates, but that increased to 3837 calories per day in cold climates, according to 2017 research in the American Journal of Human Biology. That sounds like a huge difference, but it’s important to know that the subjects were participating in rigorous physical activity (hiking or snowshoeing/cross country skiing/snow shoveling) and camping in high altitudes outdoors during this time. All that to say: The study results don’t suggest that going outside for a four-mile run in the cold will help you burn an additional 1,000 calories, but it does suggest that the body may burn a few extra calories as your metabolism increases in order to help keep your body warm.
Another study on participants who wore specific cooling devices like a vest and drank cold water (the goal was to induce shivering) burned more calories, particularly from fat, found a 2019 study. (This was done on just 14 people, which is extremely small. More research is needed.)
Finally, cold exposure also activates a type of metabolically active fat called brown fat, notes an article in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. Brown fat is especially useful because it helps your body maintain its happy weight. For example, if you eat a high-calorie meal, brown fat will help burn off those calories to keep your body in balance. (Pretty cool, right?) So, it’s a good thing to have more brown fat.
7 Ways to Burn More Calories in Colder Weather
Exercising in the cold can be a blast — and it’s a nice way to switch things up. Here’s how you can make the most of it, whether you’re seeking a solo workout, an exercise that’s more play than work, or a good time with friends.
Just snowed? Pop in a podcast and get out there with your shovel. A half-hour of snow shoveling burns 191 calories for a person who’s 140 pounds, according to the calculator from the Calorie Control Council. The next day, don’t be surprised if you’re wondering why your shoulders and arms are so sore. Just remember to use proper form when lifting snow, relying on your legs for help (not your back).
Sled With The Kids
There’s a lot of work — and laughter — that goes into trudging up a sled hill with your kids for a quick ride down. Repeat that for an hour, and you’ve torched 445 calories. Plus, you’ll leave with a happy winter memory of a whole lot of laughter from accidentally sliding down backwards or gently running into a snowbank. Bonus: You get to warm up with almond milk hot chocolates with the kiddos afterwards.
You don’t need to go to a ski hill to ski. Cross-country skiing is an amazing full-body, intense cardio workout that burns more than 500 calories per hour. You will really push yourself while cross-country skiing, but you’re surrounded by so much natural beauty (snow-capped trees! Deer, and bunny tracks!) that you’ll get a big mood boost just by being out there.
Why not take onerous tasks and make them count as your workout for the day? If you live in a cold climate and love a good fireplace moment, you’re going to be buying firewood. Taking the time to stack it on the side of your house for the winter burns about 160 calories in a half-hour. And you’ve just checked off two things for the day.
Go Ice Skating
Unless you grew up ice skating as a kid, you’ll probably fall on your butt a few times. And that’s okay! In fact, it’ll make the whole event even more enjoyable. (More laughs = Better time.) An hour of ice skating torches about 450 calories.
Taking a Walk Outside
Grab your neighbor and head out for a walk. All you need is to dress for the weather, meaning wear thick gloves, a scarf, a warm hat, and a big coat — whatever you need to feel comfortable on the go. Another idea: Plan to meet at your local coffee shop, grab a hot beverage, and then head out for a walk around the area. The promise of a latte (and some good convo) may be all you need to get out there.
Sticking it Out Indoors
Sometimes, the weather is terrible. It’s below zero. The wind is whipping you around. It’s sleeting or snowing heavily — no need to try to tough it out. Stick with your go-to FitOn workout in your living room, whether that’s a strength-based workout, a sweaty HIIT session, or a dance class. Bonus: You can wear whatever you like.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New This Winter
Winter workouts are a great way to shake up your exercise routine, and you can increase your strength and cardiovascular health by doing seasonal chores (such as shoveling snow) or finding time for fun activities (such as ice skating with a group of friends). Whatever you choose, you can go into the spring and summer being fitter than ever.