"Me? Skating? I don't think so!"
Is that your response to an invitation to the ice rink? If so, consider the benefits of being a novice at skating, or any winter sport: You'll see results much faster than if you were already an expert, and you'll be laughing so hard you'll forget you're even exercising. Plus, participating in winter sports is a wonderful way to spend time with your family.
Skiing is a great family activity
Ricki, a lawyer, and her family have spent the holidays together skiing every year since she was three. Not only does the family reap the benefits of downhill skiing (a great workout that builds muscles in your legs and torso), but family members also spend quality time together.
Mark, a vice president at an investment company, goes skiing several times each winter with his wife and in-laws. "Skiing is a common interest for us, and it brings everyone together," Mark says. "Family members who may not spend a lot of time together at home may end up skiing together because they're at the same level."
Skiing is just one of several winter activities that Mark's family enjoys. He and his wife, Rosaleen, occasionally ice skate, holding hands and getting romantic. "Hiking in the snow is great for that, too," he says.
Winter sports with great fitness benefits include:
Cross-country skiing. "Cross-country skiing is one of the best cardio workouts around," says spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise CC Cunningham. "Everything's moving—your legs, arms, torso and back. It's a hardcore calorie burner. You sweat a lot, though, so be careful not to overdress—and when beginning, choose only level terrain."
Ice skating. Skating improves your balance and agility and the muscle tone in your legs. With a few lessons, maybe you can even learn to do some tricks!
Snowshoeing. Snowshoeing can be a low- or high-intensity activity, depending on how fast you walk (or jog) and how deep the snow is. Trekking through snow on racket-shaped shoes is a terrific cardiovascular workout that increases your stamina and tones all your leg muscles, from your thighs to your toes.
Making "snow angels." This activity is not just for kids, and it's more aerobic than you might think. To make a snow angel, lie on your back in the snow. Keeping your elbows and knees straight, sweep your arms up and down and your legs in and out through their full range of motion several times, then get up carefully. Now find a field with deep snow, and see if you're up for this vigorous workout: "Stand up, fall down, make your angel, then quickly stand up and drop again," Cunningham says. Take your kids along, and try to fill the entire field with snow angels. It's a blast.