7 Winter Activities That Burn the Most Calories

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Head outside and burn calories in a more creative way this winter.
Image Credit: Henrik Sorensen/DigitalVision/GettyImages

Don't let dropping temperatures limit your workouts to the same four walls. From cross-country skiing to sledding and even shoveling snow, the icy elements of winter present new ways to burn calories. Plus, when you layer up and head outside, you get to breathe fresh air and potentially soak up vitamin D from the sunshine.

However, if you're not used to exercising in freezing temperatures, the hazards of winter weather can sneak up on you. Wear layers so you can peel off as clothing gets wet or your body temperature starts to rise, says Chris Gagliardi, a medical exercise specialist certified by the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

"Select clothing materials that give off heat during exercise and retain heat during inactive periods like wool and synthetic materials." And of course, as with all types of exercise, remember to stay hydrated.

Now grab a parka, a cap and some gloves and try one (or all) of these activities to stay active all winter long. For each activity, the estimated calories burned are based on calculations from LIVESTRONG.com's MyPlate app, using body weights of 125/150/225 pounds and assuming an hour of moderate-intensity activity.

Curious exactly how many calories you burn during your workouts? Download the MyPlate app for a more accurate and customized estimate.

Read more: 8 Reasons to Spend More Time Outdoors

1. Downhill Skiing

Hitting the ski slopes is often the first thing that comes to mind when people think of winter activities. An adult skiing downhill at a casual pace for an hour will burn between 250 and 510 calories. Increase your speed just a bit to a moderate pace and you can burn 100 calories more per hour.

Of course, what goes down must come up first. When calculating your time on the slopes, subtract the time you spend on the lift and in line to factor in only the amount of time you're actually skiing. Or if you're feeling especially adventurous, add more calories if you forego the lift for an uphill climb on your next run.

Calories Burned: 340/408/612

2. Snowboarding

Snowboarders and skiers have been at odds since the two downhill sports started competing for run-time on the slopes. When it comes to calorie burn, though, moderate snowboarding inches out ahead of moderate-speed skiing — but not by a lot. The big difference is in the muscle groups used.

Both require strong legs and ankles and a solid core for balance, but boarding requires increased flexibility and slightly more core strength to support body rotation. "To further increase your calorie burn, stretch before hitting the slopes, with leg lifts and other lower body strength exercises like squats or racing up the stairs," says Caleb Backe, personal trainer and health expert at Maple Holistics.

Calories Burned: 357/428/642

Read more: How to Stay Motivated to Work Out When It's Cold, Dark and Miserable

3. Cross-Country Skiing

"Cross-country skiing might be THE BEST winter workout activity as it's a total body workout," says Alan Snyder, DPT, of Breakaway Physical Therapy. It hits all your major muscle groups, including triceps, biceps, upper and lower back, abdominals, obliques, glutes, hip abductors, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.

To increase the calorie burn, Dr. Snyder recommends adding a HIIT component to your workout, increasing your speed for short periods of time followed by equal or shorter recovery periods. Or since cross-country skiing is all about using energy to propel your own body weight, add resistance by wearing a weighted vest or wrist and ankle weights — or even tote a toddler along on a sled.

Calories Burned: 453/544/816

4. Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a fantastic exercise that requires little no experience to get started, as long as you can walk. A moderate pace of 3 MPH gives you a great lower-body workout that targets your glutes, calves, hip abductors, quads and hamstrings. Dr. Snyder suggests finding a terrain that includes small hills like a golf course for an additional cardio boost.

Calories Burned: 453/544/816*

*Calories calculated using data from ACE.

5. Ice Skating

Indoors or outdoors, ice skating can be fun for the whole family or make for a romantic date. On a smaller rink, simply keeping your balance and staying out of other skaters' way can present its own set of challenges, while burning a decent amount of calories.

Maintaining your balance as you skate engages your core and lower body in a slightly different way than walking and running, so don't be surprised if you're a bit sore the next day. On a less-crowded, larger rink, you can get your speed up and really boost the burn, or try varying your speed and duration with sprints and recovery laps.

Calories Burned: 396/476/714

Read more: The Perfect 6-Minute Warm-Up for Outdoor Winter Workouts

6. Sledding

Embrace your inner child, grab a sled and head to your nearest hill. One hour of sledding burns around 400 calories, assuming you're walking uphill and not catching a lift. "To bump up the calorie burn, select steeper hills, so the walk back up will require extra effort from your leg muscles, and offer to carry 2 sleds at a time," Backe says. Or add a little healthy competition with friends and race up or down to increase the burn — and the fun.

Calories Burned: 396/476/714

7. Shoveling Snow

You may think you're just cleaning off your driveway or digging out your car, but you might be surprised to learn that shoveling snow is quite a workout, Backe says. To burn even more calories, speed up your shoveling time and take shorter rests. When snow is deeper, heavier, wetter, denser or icier, it weighs more than the light, fluffy, new-fallen stuff. The harder it is to lift and deposit, the more calories you burn.

Calories Burned: 340/408/612

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