How to Burn More Calories in the Winter

winter workouts outdoors

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It's hard to stay active in the winter. When the days get shorter and the temperature drops, most people would probably rather curl up on the couch in front of the fire with a good book than brave the cold outside. There's certainly nothing wrong with hibernating and relaxing, but eliminating all forms of physical activity from your winter routine doesn't bode well for weight loss or weight management.

While a well-balanced diet filled with nutrient-rich foods can help keep your overall calorie consumption in check, it's still important to get enough exercise to stay healthy. Find out how simple cold-weather activities can help you burn more calories during the winter months.

Winter Workouts for Weight Loss

The winter season shouldn't be an excuse to stay inside 24/7. "Winter is the perfect time to do new activities you haven't done before," says Glennis Coursey, former lead coach at MyFitnessPal, a popular online resource for diet and exercise. "Winter sports are great calorie burners and they're fun!" Coursey recommends the following family-friendly winter activities to burn some extra calories:

  • Cross Country Skiing: up to 500 calories per hour
  • Downhill Skiing: 430 calories per hour
  • Sledding: up to 500 calories per hour
  • Ice Skating: up to 500 calories per hour
  • Snowshoeing: 576 calories per hour


Of course,​ the exact number of calories that you burn when you try these sports will vary based on your current weight, level of fitness, and the intensity of your activity, but any of these workouts can help you burn fat.

More Winter Activities That Burn Calories

If your outdoor chores have taken over your schedule, don't worry. Winter jobs can burn some serious calories, too. For instance, when you clear the driveway or clean the walkway, you can count that effort as a workout. Shoveling snow can burn up to 500 calories per hour. If you need to clean off your car before heading to work, scraping ice off your car can burn another 250 calories per hour, according to Coursey.

In addition, parenting duties can also turn into a workout in the winter. Taking the family activities outside gives you more opportunities to burn calories. "When you haul the kids up a hill on a sled, build a snowman or go ice skating—all these things burn calories and are fun for the whole family," Coursey says.

Safety Tips for Winter Workouts

To stay safe when you exercise outdoors, it's important to plan ahead. Be sure to check the weather and look out for extreme conditions, low temperatures, snow, rain, or high winds so that you're prepared. "I always try to schedule workouts as close to midday as I can to avoid the extra-low temperatures in the morning and evenings and take advantage of the daylight," says Coursey.

Remember to dress appropriately, especially if you are doing high-intensity workouts that will elevate your body temperature. It's a good idea to dress in layers that you can remove as your body warms up. Following your workout, be sure to put your layers back on, especially if you're sweaty. You want to keep your body temperature regulated so that it doesn't drop too quickly.

Keeping your feet dry and warm is essential as well. If you're feet stay protected, you'll be able to burn more calories in the snow. Wear warm waterproof shoes for activities like sledding or snowshoeing. Companies like BEARPAW make warm waterproof boots with strong rubber outsoles for good traction during activities in the snow. If you have boots that aren't completely waterproof, you can add gaiters to keep your feet dry. 

If you're doing a lower intensity workout, Coursey advises keeping your head, toes, and fingers covered. Make sure you know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite, and whenever possible, work out with a buddy so they can watch for signs like shivering or nausea.

Lastly, visibility becomes an issue during the darker winter months. The days are shorter so it is likely that if you exercise outdoors, you will work out in dark early morning hours or dark evening hours. It's a smart idea to wear technical apparel that is also reflective.

Several brands make gear with high-tech visibility features. The Zap Collection by Sugoi, for example, is designed for high visibility when struck by artificial light. So if you are running or cycling near a road, drivers can see you and slow down for your safety. You'll find reflective gear for a wide range of sports and for every part of your body, including jackets, pants, gloves, and even for your shoes, helmet, and pack.

Winter Workouts to Do at Home

Of course, there will be times when the weather conditions prevent you from enjoying an outdoor workout. If that's the case, you might need to get creative to burn more calories inside.

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Article Sources
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  1. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. March 08, 2021.

  2. University of Rochester Medical Center. Health Encyclopedia. Calorie Burn Rate Calculator.