winter

Want to stay active this winter but struggling to brave the chill? Personal trainer Emily Cole shares her fun and effective workout ideas you need to try.

As the winter chill sets in and the hours of daylight fade, maintaining a regular fitness routine can be challenging. More than half of us feel that getting up during winter is a struggle, according to new research, while festive celebrations are more likely to take priority over our gym sessions.

However, according to Virgin Active personal trainer Emily Cole, there’s an easy way to achieve both. “The secret is to combine your social activities with your workout,” suggests Emily. “Whether it’s an ice-skating date with friends or a festive family trip to the lido, here’s how to burn calories and have fun this season…”

1. Hit the indoor ski slope

Don’t have the budget for a skiing holiday? Check out your local indoor dry slope. This is such a fun activity, whether you’re a beginner or more experienced. You’ll get an effective workout without even trying as it strengthens your entire lower body and increases your cardiovascular endurance. Skiing will also strengthen bones and joints due to the weight-bearing impact on your legs.

2. Brave the icy waters

Going for a dip in your local lido may not be for everyone, but if you can handle the icy temperatures it comes with some serious health benefits. Firstly, studies show cold water helps to boost our white blood cell count – helping to stave off illness. Secondly, it will give you an endorphin high like no other. Cold-water swimming brings us close to the pain barrier, when endorphins are released to help us cope.

Going with a friend means you’re much more likely to commit, too! Visit the Outdoor Swimming Society to browse the UK lidos open in winter.

3. Visit your local ice-skating rink

Swap your pub trip for a session on the ice and your body will thank you – skating is a great cardio workout. It strengthens and tones your legs and targets large muscle groups including your glutes and hamstrings. Whizzing across the slippery surface also challenges your core strength and balance.

4. Embrace the snow

If we’re lucky enough to have a white Christmas, braving the cold is even more fun. A good old-fashioned snowball fight will not only get everyone laughing, but it’s also estimated to help you burn as many as 500 calories per hour, making that post-exercise hot chocolate taste even more satisfying.

5. Hire your local sports court with friends

Pull together a team, layer up and hit the courts for a friendly game of netball (check out the basic rules here). This winter sport will get your heart pumping and improve your joint health. What’s more, playing team sport boosts our long-term happiness and life satisfaction, according to the London School of Economics. Beats a standard coffee or lunch out!

6. Take a Nordic-style scenic hike

A brisk walk in the great outdoors is the best exercise for maintaining a healthy weight, according to the annual Health Survey England – plus it’s a great way to boost your mood during these shorter days. Choose trickier terrain if you’re up for a challenge, Nordic walking poles will also help to work your arms. Or, keep it family-friendly with a countryside stroll.

Research from Canada also found that adults over 50 who go on regular walks are more likely to make new friends and report a strong sense of community. Visit Walking Britain to find local walks in your area.

7. Go for a winter run

It might not sound inviting, but running in chilly conditions has huge health benefits. Studies have shown we burn more calories in cold weather as the body expends more fuel to keep us warm. People who exercise in colder temperatures also feel stronger and more confident, according to scientists at St Mary’s University, London.

Just remember to thoroughly warm up and cool down to prevent injury and wrap up warm to keep illness at bay.

Need more help to stay motivated this winter? Read our guide to winter running and staying committed.

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