Your Guide to Staying Active This Winter

A roundup of activities by muscle group
Published November 17, 2021

Winter may be fast approaching but that doesn’t mean we have to stay inside for the next few months. There are plenty of ways to stay active outside, and you can even pick winter activities based on the muscle groups you want to target.

Fortunately, Canada’s cold climate lends itself well to a number of winter sports and activities, and if you live here, you’ve probably already tried many of them. From ice hockey to tobogganing, snowboarding to snowshoeing, there are tons of options to get your heart pumping and your muscles working.

Full body

Snowshoeing: Karisa Karmali, certified personal trainer and founder of Self-Love and Fitness™, recommends snowshoeing because it’s a compound exercise that works the same muscle groups as a squat and also uses the upper body for balance.

“Snowshoeing works the hamstrings, quads, hip flexors and glutes. It engages the core and arms as the movement progresses in order to maintain balance,” Karmali says. “It is as challenging, if not more challenging, than hiking, as walking through snow adds a layer of muscle engagement. It is a great calorie burner and fantastic for the winter.”

Sun salutations: Brett Larkin, founder and CEO of Uplifted Yoga, says sun salutations, a common series of yoga poses, are great for the whole body.

“Sun salutations are a wonderful way to warm up your body during the cold months,” he says. “Regular practice is especially effective for developing your biceps, triceps, and shoulders. But you’ll be toning everything. It’s truly one of the most effective sequences and is a great mood booster to beat the winter blues. To get the full benefits, do the sequences in the mornings near a window that gets plenty of natural light.”

Walking: “This is the ‘everywhere and anywhere’ exercise,” says ACE-certified personal trainer Kate Cherichello. “It is low impact yet immensely beneficial. It gets us moving, no matter the temperature, easing the heart rate up slowly and safely.”

Cherichello recommends asking a friend to join you for the mental health benefits of being social, and suggests trying stairs in your community – as long as they are free of ice.

Upper body

Shovel some snow: Creator of the Candida Diet Lisa Richards suggests a simple, classic winter activity to work your upper body: shovelling snow.

“Just 30 minutes of shovelling can burn more than 200 calories. It’s comparable to lifting weights, so you also give your arm and back muscles the workout they need,” she says.

Shovelling snow will also target your core, so you’ll be working multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Lower body

Skating: “Have kids? Or simply feeling young at heart? Get a group together and head to your local ice-skating rink,” says trainer Cherichello. “If you have never done this before, look into a beginner lesson to get you going.”

Sledding: This is a great family activity, and one many of us have grown up doing. The more you have to walk back up those hills carrying your toboggan, the more you’re working your leg muscles. This is also a great aerobic workout, as it’ll get your heartrate up pretty quickly.

Ice hockey: This is a Canadian classic, and a great lower body workout. The quadriceps are particularly targeted.

Snowboarding: As expected, snowboarding uses tons of muscles throughout the ankles, knees and the rest of the leg. But it also relies on your core muscles for balance, so this is almost a full body workout, too.