“Brrr” is no excuse to queue up Netflix, at least not until after you’ve had your workout. Frosty weather or not, the CDC says we need 2.5 hours of cardio per week in order to help stave off chronic disease. In fact, we probably need even more to keep from packing on the winter (ahem: holiday sugar) padding.
True, keeping up with a winter cardio regimen isn’t easy. It’s cold, it gets dark early, and some of us get cabin fever just thinking about being stuck on a treadmill at the gym. But fear not: some of the best cardio for winter includes activities you can do despite snow, inversion or sub-zero temps, that won’t give you “gym fever.”
1. Spin class. Spinning or “spin” is an indoor, instructor-led cycling class offered at many gyms and fitness studios that, according to my friends, delivers one sweaty cardio workout. From what I hear, there’s no time to get bored—unlike your typical stationary bike + TV-watching experience, you’re pedaling with a team, varying your pace and resistance level, and incorporating moves like standing and sprinting. A typical spin class usually lasts 40-60 minutes. You also have the benefits of a pre-commitment and camaraderie (just don’t try to hide in the back).
2. Dance lessons. The possibilities for learning a new dance style and also getting a killer workout are endless: ballet, tango, Brazilian samba, Zumba, belly dancing, tap dance, Bollywood-style Masala Bhangra… in a one-hour dance class, you can burn as many as 400 calories. Whether you take lessons or just grab a workout DVD, the mental challenge of learning new moves will keep you engaged. And dancing isn’t just for girls, by the way. It was a male friend’s recent date with his lady to a tango class that inspired me to add this to the list. He said they had a blast.
3. Tennis in the bubble. Many tennis clubs erect a heated “bubble” over their courts this time of year, making it a great winter option. Tennis, along with racquetball, challenges the mind and it’s a social sport, so it’s easy to get hooked and stay motivated. Tennis also keeps you on the move and delivers a full-body cardio workout. I took group lessons last year and stuck with it throughout the winter (in part, no doubt, because I had prepaid for classes—another bonus).
4. Swimming. Swimming is a great aerobic activity and there are plenty of advantages to frequenting your local indoor pool during the winter months. You’ll be ready for summer vacations at the beach or lake. You’ll have a head-start in training for triathlons. And you’ll get to brush up on an important survival skill (not to mention, get a really strong upper body). If you need an extra challenge, how about dive or scuba lessons?
5. Bundle up and resume your outdoor cardio. Some people need nature in order to enjoy exercise, and I don’t blame you. If you can brave the winter cold, you can still walk, run, cycle—or if you live near mountains, ski!—outdoors with the right gear. For me, running in the cold isn’t so bad when layered up, with a moisture-wicking material closest to the skin. For cycling in the cold, a great idea is wearing a helmet cover to stay dry (and of course, a fleece headband so the wind doesn’t whip your ears senseless). You can also use a mountain bike and lower tire pressure for more traction in inclement weather. Final tip: warm up for 10 minutes before you head outside!
Winter doesn’t have to mean hibernate. In fact, picking up new winter cardio activities is a great opportunity to round out your fitness repertoire. What’s your top choice for winter exercise? Tell us in the comments.
By Chelsea Bush