As the outdoor tennis season comes to an end and colder weather and snow arrive, many Canadians either give up on exercise until spring, or head indoors to gyms and community centres. Today I’m going to try to convince you to reconsider… there are after all, many benefits to exercising outdoors. Genie Bouchard even recently joined forces with Nike Canada to encourage the benefits of outdoor workouts!
Although I have to admit that I’m not a fan of cold weather, embracing it leads to more fun than shunning it, and the arrival of snow offers new activity options. Once you learn to dress for it and find a few activities to enjoy, you’ll discover a gym membership isn’t the only way to get fit and stay fit over the winter months.
Here are five outdoor exercise options to consider… I do all of them:
- Walking: I really only embraced walking as a great form of exercise upon getting a dog six years ago. Now that several walks a day are part of my routine in every season, I dress for them, stride briskly, and challenge myself (and the dog!) with pace, distance and terrain. Canadians under-estimate the value of walking, particularly at a brisk pace and outdoors. Get started with my 8-Week Walking Program or consider adding poles to your walks to engage 90% of the muscles in your body, abs and core included!
- Running: A runner of several years, I refuse to give up my outdoor runs just because of the arrival of snow and freezing temperatures. Although I do run indoors a couple of times a week, I enjoy our winter wonderland and the sense of accomplishment I feel after my winter runs too much to give them up. Victoria Azarenka might agree!
- Snowshoeing: Living in Toronto, I’d much prefer to have snow in the winter, than not. Snow enables me to strap on my snowshoes, grab my poles, and make my way through parks and ravines with my dog for a fantastic workout. Learn more about the benefits of a snowshoe workout in this post I wrote for ParticipACTION.
- Ice Skating: Okay, so this is one activity I don’t do often now that my kids are teenagers. Probably as good thing too… I have never excelled at it and am something of a liability on ice. Ice skating can however, provide a good cardiovascular workout and will help to increase your endurance and strengthen muscles. In an article I read just recently, medical experts ranked 30 minutes of ice skating third among 12 forms of exercise based on its contribution to stamina, flexibility, muscle definition and digestion. Lace em’ up!
- XC Skiing: I take my skis to nearby ravines on weekdays and enjoy hitting the trails on weekends. A great workout at any pace, your heart and lungs will get a workout; you’ll engage about 90% of the muscles in your body; and it’s a great stress-buster.
Whatever you do, don’t sit still this winter (at least not for long!). You’ll want to be in shape to hit the tennis courts first thing come spring… and this means maintaining or building endurance and strength throughout the off season.