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Winter Workout, Canada Style

Fun exercise ideas


With winter weather putting a damper on your fitness, you may be ready to give up. But don't despair, try these exercises and stay fit in the Canadian outdoors.

With winter weather putting a damper on your workout plans, you may be ready to give up on your blossoming six-pack. But don’t despair; there are fun and challenging ways to stay fit in the Canadian outdoors while stoking your body’s furnace, even in colder weather.

Fortunately for us, Canada is an outdoor paradise, the perfect place for you to get a great calorie burn while also having a blast. You can exercise alone, with an experienced guide, or with friends.

Here are some of the top ways to get hot on a cold Canadian day. And if your schedule or lifestyle doesn’t allow you to take in the fun in the great outdoors, we’ve provided you with some gym-based alternatives to get you ready for the real thing.

Ice climbing

Indoor and outdoor rock climbing have been a great source of fun and exercise for years, so why not try scaling a mountain of ice?

Why it’s fun!
How many times have you scaled a frozen waterfall? If you’re a thrill seeker, this is a great activity to try. The Canadian Rockies host a number of companies that can take you out for the day and guide you through the process to make it safe and enjoyable.

Health benefits:
muscular and cardiovascular endurance, increased muscle tone, core stability, increased flexibility

Muscles worked:
core, hamstrings, gluteals, calves, lower back, shoulders, forearms

Gym alternative:

  • The gauntlet, which is like a stair climber but has rolling stairs, is a great choice: climb on and push yourself up some rolling hills for 5 minutes at a time. You should be breathing heavily.
  • Alternate with 5 sets of 15 reps of overhead shoulder presses.
  • If you’re outdoors, you can do 5 sets of stair running (think stadium style) alternating with 5 sets of 15 push-ups.

Staying safe: clothing

“Wearing heavy or impermeable clothing while exercising in cold weather can elicit unexpectedly high sweat rates,” according to a position stand in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. This can result in an increase in lost electrolytes, which in turn can cause dehydration.

Tips on cold weather attire

  • premium nonbulky ski suit
  • ski-quality full-body long underwear
  • ski socks
  • layers
  • goggles instead of sunglasses
  • mitts instead of gloves (possible glove liners)

Staying hydrated

Even though you’re feeling cold, your body produces heat while you participate in snow sports. “Winter sports and activities can result in sweat and increase the likelihood of becoming dehydrated. Warm air … evaporates moisture from the body, making it crucial to keep hydrated,” says Brooke Joanna Benlifer, registered dietician.

Adult males should consume 125 oz (3.5 L) and females 91 oz (2.7 L) of water daily. If you are active, you may need more than this amount.

Tips to stay hydrated

  • Eat a good breakfast.
  • Start drinking fluid a few hours before exercising.
  • Drink carbohydrate-based drinks during longer workouts.
  • Following your workout, eat normal meals and regularly drink plain, filtered water.


Yes, it’s a blast and you need no formal training to enjoy this winter pastime. Believe it or not, you will burn the same amount of calories while tubing as you would ice skating.

Why it’s fun!
How can sliding down a snowy hill on an inflatable tube not be fun? You can do it at any age and with friends and family. Always great followed by some hot chocolate.

Health benefits:
increased muscular and cardiovascular endurance, and possible weight loss if done regularly

Muscles worked:
gluteals, all leg muscles, shoulders, core

Gym alternative:

  • Climb up your imaginary snowy hill: get your treadmill up to an 8 to 10 percent incline at a speed of about 3.5 to 3.8.
  • Continue uphill for 5 minutes.
  • Ready to slide? Sit on a BOSU ball with the dome side down, place your hands on the handles, and lift your feet off the ground; rock from side to side.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Ice skating

You might not think of this fun activity as a great calorie burn, but it really depends upon how you take to the ice. Make sure to swing your arms as you go and keep up some speed for at least 30 minutes at a time.

Why it’s fun!
Ice skating can be enjoyed with family and friends, and you can do it both indoors and outdoors. It’s relatively cheap and can be done all year long.

Health benefits:
increased heart and lung health, increased cardiovascular and muscular endurance, and possible weight loss if done with intensity

Primary muscles worked:
gluteals, quadriceps, hamstring, core muscles

Gym alternative:

  • Using gliders (or socks on a slippery floor), slide from side to side, adding swinging arms.
  • Glide for 5 minutes at a time, alternating with 2 to 3 sets each of 15 standing squats and lunges on the floor.

Downhill skiing

Nothing can beat the rush of racing down a snowy hill and enjoying the spectacular landscape in front of you. Downhill skiing is a solo or social sport and can be enjoyed by just about anyone.

Why it’s fun!
With the wind in your face and the powder below your feet, you can enjoy the beauty of the mountain for hours on end.

Health benefits:
increased lower-body strength, balance, coordination, increased muscular and cardiovascular endurance

Muscles worked:
gluteus maximus and medius, peroneus longus, adductors, quadriceps, hamstrings

Gym alternative:

  • On an absorptive floor, place both feet together and jump from side to side for 30 seconds.
  • Alternate with 3 to 4 sets of 15 squats, lunges, and wall sits (sit against a wall with your knees at 90 degrees).


Many Canadians have swapped their skis for a snowboard to tame the mountain. Often described as surfing or skateboarding on snow, snowboarding has emerged as a hugely popular winter sport.

Why it’s fun!
“Getting up early for the untracked fresh snow and the exhilaration of slicing and bouncing through it on your own agenda while the world spins around you makes it fun,” says snowboarder Dan Mitchell.

Health benefits:
increased cardiovascular and muscular endurance, balance, core stability

Muscles worked:
core abdominals, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves

Gym alternative:

  • Do 3 to 4 sets of 15 squats and lunges.
  • Alternate with 30-second intervals of plyometric jumps (burst up from a squat and jump high into the air).

Winter workouts can be exhilarating—and offer great health benefits. The gym will be there for the rest of the year, but for now, why not take to your local mountain, frozen pond, or waterfall to fully enjoy the Canadian wonderland outside your doorstep? 

Calories burned

Skating Tubing Ice climbing Downhill skiing Snowboarding






*Calories burned are based on a 155 lb (70 kg) person moving for one hour.



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