Want to boost your walking workouts and stay safer on slippery surfaces this winter? Pick up a pair of poles and try Nordic walking. It’s easy, really. Take any pair of poles – cross-country ski ones will do – and plant them at a 45 degree angle, grip forward. Your arms should be outstretched, as if you are shaking hands with someone. Then, for each step you take, pump your arms up and down. Before you know it, your upper arms and abdominal strength will improve, as will your posture.
Yes, your household chores can be also be a great workout. Lifting snow, especially if it’s wet, is like picking up heavy weights, so ease into it and make sure you stretch, before and after. A proper shovel is also crucial. The Canadian Physiotherapy Association recommends using a shovel long enough so you can slightly bend your knees, flex your back and lift. Ergonomic shovels with curved handles are especially good, because they allow you to keep your back straighter while lifting.
Remember being a kid and dreading the climb up the hill after gliding down it in mere seconds? That’s where the workout comes in, especially when you have to tow a sled and child up with you. Like Sisyphus pushing the rock or a gigantic StairMaster, the more you climb, the better the exercise.
Think of snowshoeing as the winter combination of walking and hiking. “Snowshoeing burns up to twice the number of calories as walking at the same speed,” says Declan Connolly, an associate professor of physical education at the University of Vermont. Plus, the simple joy of walking on untouched snow is enough to raise anyone’s spirits. Get yourself a light pair of aluminum snowshoes and hit the trails.
Skating boosts your endurance, balance and coordination – the aerobic equivalent to a light jog or run. Besides finding a frozen pond or local arena, all you need are a pair of skates that fit well and support your ankles.
A total-body workout that won’t put stress on your joints, cross-country skiing also improves balance, coordination and endurance and gets your heart pumping. The scenery alone will have you coming back for more. This is a sport you can start at almost any age, because you control the intensity of your workout.