Into the Cold: Activities to Take Up This Winter Season

The first sign of snow can be welcomed with a cheer and open arms, or a sigh as you pull out your winter coat. For those of us who dread the winter months we may avoid going outside completely, only to emerge from our cozy cocoons come May when the flowers are blooming and the arm breezes begin once again. However, as tempting as this may sound it also limits us from experiencing all that winter has to offer. If you feel ready to embrace the winter months, you can try these activities on for size:


1.  Skiing

If you or someone you know is a frequent visitor on the slopes you know how exciting that first snowfall can be. Haven’t hit the slopes before? It’s definitely a full body workout you don’t want to miss out on for both downhill and cross-country skiing. Skiing is a great aerobic activity that provides resistance training and muscle strengthening, however, there are some differences in the exercise benefits depending on which type of skiing you are participating in.


Downhill Skiing- LOWER BODY

Downhill or alpine skiing engages the muscles in the lower body including the hips, legs (specifically hamstrings, quadriceps, calves), thighs and feet. During exercise, muscles contract and expand for each movement. In alpine skiing, the muscles do not contract and expand as rapidly as other exercises would cause them to, like running, and as such they stay in the same squatting, contracted state for most of the time down the hill. This is a challenge for your muscles to maintain the contraction during the entire run. If you’re looking to strengthen or challenge your lower body then you should definitely try to hit the slopes for some alpine skiing before the season ends.


If you have any chronic knee, ankle or hip pain seek medical council before alpine skiing to ensure the activity will not irritate your condition or injury.


Cross-country Skiing- UPPER BODY

If you’re looking to focus on upper body strength cross-country skiing may be a better fit. Cross-country skiing still engages your whole body however the use of the double polls to aid in movement engages the upper body* more so than alpine skiing.  Cross-country skiers use their poles to propel forward as compared to downhill skiing where skiers move under the force of gravity down the hill.

Any chronic shoulder, back or wrist pain? May be better to skip out on cross-country skiing and either try alpine skiing or snowboarding (discussed below).

*Upper body here is referred to as anything above the hip joint


2.  Snowboarding– LOWER BODY FOCUS

Snowboarding, similarly to alpine skiing, uses the lower body primarily for movement, most notably the quadriceps. Skiers can alternate weight on each leg by turning or switching directions on the hill, with snowboarding, however, force is applied almost equally to both legs for all movements, having a greater need for lower limb endurance. There is a greater distribution of weight put onto the rear leg which can cause a slight difference in leg strength. This does not pose a greater risk for injury, however it is something to note if for example one leg is injured or in pain in any way prior to snowboarding.


3. Ice Skating – LOWER BODY

This activity can be done on a weekly or even daily basis at your local skating arena, some public parks or other designated rinks around the city. Skating is not only a great aerobic exercise but it also engages your thighs, butox, and calf muscles, and it can be a great afternoon or evening activity with family and friends! The benefits in terms of exercise depend on how fast or how intense you are skating. The more intense you skate the more you work those muscle groups. For runners or cyclists looking to maintain muscle during the winter, skating is a great activity that you can include in your regular workout routine for the season. Skating helps build up your muscular endurance in the lower body and strengthen your core. It is also a great way to manage stress and mental health as it engages you to concentrate more intensely on the activity you don’t normally do and challenge yourself mentally to continue the activity for more than a few minutes.


Still feel like staying in doors? Make sure you’re getting enough of the daily or weekly activity you need to maintain heart health and weight. Our personal trainers would be happy to give you some other fun ways to work out in the winter.


Stay active and stay warm!





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Vernillo, G., Pisoni, C., & Thiébat, G. (2018). Physiological and Physical Profile of Snowboarding: A Preliminary Review.
Frontiers in physiology, 9, 770. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00770


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