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By Lauren McRae
Winter is here – heavy snowfalls, freezing temperatures, darker days – we’re in the thick of it. Instead of just hiding out under the covers at home waiting for the snow to melt, take advantage of the season by trying these cold-weather activities and fun things to do.Before you head outdoors, Kirsten Geary, MD, a Primary Care Sports Medicine physician, wants to remind you that injuries can happen quickly during winter outdoor activities if you’re not careful or prepared with the right clothing and equipment.“Make sure you dress appropriately. Keeping a warm core is crucial,” Dr. Geary said. “Also make sure extremities are protected from the environment. Fingers, toes, ears, and nose are most likely to suffer cold injury like frostbite.” Another important way to prevent injury is to use the proper form when shoveling snow, she said. “Don’t take on too much snow at once, especially if it’s a heavy, wet snow and lift from the legs and hips, not your back to avoid back injury,” Dr. Geary said. “Those with cardiac conditions should make sure not to over-exert and take frequent breaks to limit strain on the heart.”
Ready for chilly, invigorating fun? Here are some great ideas:Take a Snowshoe Hike: Strap on some snowshoes, head to your nearest forest preserve and hike through the snow. Take in the sights and sounds of winter. Snowshoeing is an exceptional cardiovascular workout – you can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour. It provides endurance building, low-impact muscle building and helps with balance strengthening and agility. Go snow tubing or sledding: Snow tubing has the benefit of pairing fun and exercise. Even though you’re resting going down the slopes, every time you climb back up, you’re working several muscle groups and increasing your endurance. Try ice skating: This go-to winter activity for adults and kids is a fantastic way to spend a wintry afternoon. Skating works nearly every muscle group in the body. It helps improve your balance, coordination and it invigorates your major muscle groups! Shovel your driveway (or a neighbor’s driveway): This isn’t so much of a “fun” activity – but you surely can get a good workout in and get your car safely out of the driveway! Shoveling helps work your obliques, legs and back muscles. The activity provides core, strength and cardio training all in one session. By simply shoveling for a half-hour, you can burn up to 180 and 266 calories.Have a snowball fight: Scoop up some snowballs and get tossing! There are both physical and mental benefits to an exciting snowball fight. The constant running around, ducking and throwing is great cardiovascular exercise and it’s a friendly competitive sport. Plus, you’ll burn plenty of calories with all that running and dashing!