Here in Southern California where the sun shines year round, it can be difficult to remember that the first day of winter in 2007 will be December 22. This holiday season why not give yourself the gift of good health by staying active in the outdoors with your favorite winter sports? Don’t forget that the snowy delights of Bear Mountain, Snow Summit, Mountain High, Mammoth Lakes and more are just a hop, skip and a luge away. Yes, yes, snowboarding and downhill skiing are definitely a blast and an excellent way to earn your vanilla vodka-spiked hot chocolate, but there are actually a whole host of healthy ways to have your fun without the sun. Here are some of IE Weekly’s favorites.
Not just for the kids anymore, all you need for this fantastic cardiovascular workout is a pair of waterproof shoes with snow traction and a waxed sled. Your goal is to then find the biggest hill around and climb up it. Tromping up that snowy hill dressed in your winter clothes and dragging a sled is a solid aerobic workout, helping to develop strength in your quad and calf muscles. In fact, according to www.AskMen.com, many top physical trainers are now offering fake “sled pulling” as a cardio and strength-building workout; but instead of doing it at the gym with a pulling sled, get outside and do it the way it was meant to be done. The down makes the up worthwhile—just watch out for trees. An hour of sledding will burn roughly 475 calories.
Call it the “short ski” version of cross-country skiing—snowshoeing uses every major muscle group at relatively high intensity (low impact) for extended periods of time, leading to higher caloric expenditure. Not that you’ll necessarily notice. With poles in your hands and what looks like tennis rackets strapped to your feet, snowshoeing allows you to stomp your way up, down and all around a snowy landscape, even scaling cliffs you would never be able to climb without the benefit of snow and the shoes’ web-like structure. An ideal cross-training activity, climbing in snowshoes works the hip flexors and extensors, crucial muscles for cyclists, and the lifting motion of each step strengthens the quadriceps, a boon to runners. Research has even shown that individuals who substitute snowshoeing for running during the winter actually improve their running fitness over those who chose to run as their primary source of winter training. In addition, the use of poles while snowshoeing gets the upper body moving and helps condition arms, shoulders and back muscles. An hour of snowshoeing will burn around 544 calories.
Finally—an excuse to do that rocking Flashdance figure skating routine to Laura Brannigan’s “Gloria.” Whether on an iced-over lake or an indoor rink, ice-skating offers more wonderfully wintery cardio along with a kick-ass workout for the legs, especially the inner thigh (adductors) and the hamstrings. But you also draw on the gluteal muscles, the lower back, the muscles of the core (for twisting and stabilizing) and the arm muscles (as you propel yourself forward). An hour of skating will burn around 475 calories, but by adding other basic skills such as forward and backward crossovers, turning, stopping and changing feet, the health benefits can increase to about 800 to 900 calories per hour.
All calorie estimations were found using the calculator on the website www.Calorie-Count.com. Results are for a person weighing 150 pounds.