7 Winter Activities to Keep You Active in the Cold Weather
When the weather turns icy, many of us turn to the couch. There’s nothing quite as cozy as reading a book with a hot cup of tea and a stack of holiday cookies. BUT before you go into full hibernation mode, pause. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing in the winter, but it’s crucial that you also participate in winter activities to keep you fit, engaged, and healthy.
The truth is, “hibernation mode” isn’t good for our mental or physical wellbeing. Even a small weight gain can add stress and strain to your joints. Physical activity keeps us fit and our bodies running smoothly. Exercise benefits are enormous, including weight loss, better muscle tone, better sleep, brighter skin, a sharper mind, and a better mood.
Swapping out on winter activities for more couch time may leave us struggling emotionally. In the winter, vitamin levels can drop, and some people experience seasonal affective disorders that can exacerbate depression and anxiety. Getting out and engaging in a few fun winter activities will help you combat the effects of the season.
Before you engage in any winter activities, make sure you’re healthy enough for physical activity. Consult with your physician and address any concerns. At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we’re here to help you enjoy winter activities pain-free. If you have any concerns about your orthopedic health, please contact us for an appointment. When you’re ready to get moving, here are 7 excellent winter activities to keep you fit in the cold weather!
1. Walking or Hiking
Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercise. It requires very little equipment or planning. It’s accessible and easy for most people. Walking and hiking are also great ways to enjoy nature and appreciate the Midwest’s beautiful winter weather.
Bundle up and be sure to wear sturdy shoes with extra traction to help you avoid winter slips and falls (one of the most common causes of injury this time of year). Plan your route and work up slowly to longer distances and a quicker pace. Leave your headphones at home, so you stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Take time to appreciate all that nature has to offer this time of year.
Snowshoeing is an excellent cardio activity! It may take some practice to get comfortable with snowshoes, but they offer more traction, keeping your feet above the snow when you walk. If you’re new to the winter activity, you can try renting snowshoes first to see if it’s something you enjoy.
There are many parks and trails near Milwaukee that offer incredible landscapes for snowshoeing. Some even provide snowshoe rentals to make it simple. When you’re ready to invest, look for a pair of quality snowshoes with good traction made for the right terrain. Beginners in our area are usually tackling flat terrain with some rolling hills. There are also advanced shoes designed for more rigorous mountain snowshoeing.
3. Cross Country Skiing
Ready to take your winter activities up a notch? Cross country skiing or Nordic skiing is a serious winter workout. Like running, cross country skiing burns calories and really gets the blood pumping. For beginners, a lesson or two can be a worthwhile investment. While Nordic skiing isn’t as fast (or dangerous) as downhill skiing, it’s essential to follow the right form and plan for success.
There are two forms of cross country skiing: classic and skate. Classic is done on narrow tracks, with the skis held parallel. Skate skiing follows a V-shaped motion, where skiers kick out as they go along in a broader path. Both forms are excellent workout options. Rent skis first to make sure you enjoy the activity before you commit to officially purchasing your own set of skis.
In Wisconsin, curling is a very popular sport. There is a state-of-the-art curling center with five sheets in Ozaukee County, home to the Milwaukee Curling Club (the oldest curling club in the United States). This fascinating sport is similar to shuffleboard, played with granite stones on the ice. The game originated in 16th century Scotland and was enjoyed on the Milwaukee River as early as the mid-1800s.
Nowadays, curling is played mainly indoors, making it a great winter activity for those who prefer to avoid unpredictable outdoor weather. Although ice sheets are kept very cold, the game is still relatively comfortable (especially when you move up and down the rink. There are classes and winter activities available for beginners who want to try this fun, alternative winter sport.
Another Wisconsin classic wintertime activity is bowling! All winter long, leagues and teams enjoy this indoor leisure sport. Bowling is relatively simple for most ages and fitness levels. It does engage core and arm strength and requires you to lift a 10-16-pound weight 22 times throughout the game. Walking to the lane line for each turn adds steps to your day, too.
Get the full fitness benefits of bowling by paying attention to your form and follow through. The sport encourages muscle memory, eye-hand coordination, balance, and dexterity. Skip out on the beer and nachos at the alley and drink extra water when you play. Rather than sitting down between turns, stay active and on your feet. You might burn up to 300 calories per hour!
6. Ice Skating
Of all the winter activities, ice skating is a timeless favorite. Better yet, it’s a winter sport you can do indoors or outside. However, it’s important to remember to go slowly and familiarize yourself with movement on the ice. Stay to the edge and hold on to the side until you get your balance and footing. Skating is all about shifting your weight from one foot to the other as you move forward.
Learn how to stop by creating a “plow” shape with your skates (rather than falling, leading to wrist and upper body injuries). Like many winter activities, it may be worth the investment to start with some lessons and professional guidance. Learning the proper form will help you avoid injuries and skate safely.
7. Community Amateur Sports Teams
If you’re looking for motivation to do more winter activities, consider joining a community amateur sports league. These rec leagues are often sponsored by bars or local businesses. You can find adult versions of many “gym class favorites” like indoor volleyball and basketball.
If you return to any sport after several years off the field, it’s essential to follow instructions and pace yourself. Wear the proper gear, and don’t expect that you’ll still be able to make the moves from your glory days (at least at first). Stretch and warm-up before each game, get proper hydration, and always wear good shoes designed for your sport.
At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we’re here to keep you enjoying winter activities for the whole season. Don’t let an injury sideline you or take you out of the fun. Should you need assistance, reach out to schedule an appointment with a member of our team. We’re here to keep you going strong this season.