Cold Weather Exercise: The Health Benefits & Number of Calories You'll Burn

Cold Weather Exercise: The Health Benefits & Number of Calories You'll Burn

The Benefits Of Outdoor Winter Workouts

When the weather drops, you don't need to hide inside. In fact, exercising in the cold will not only torch more calories, but they can provide a refreshing break from being inside stuffy gyms.  

In addition to combating winter weight gain, outdoor winter workouts improve your mood, boost immunity and have other health benefits as well. This blog will explain why you should winterize your workout and what kinds of workouts will torch the most calories.

Cold Exposure & Energy Expenditure 

Burning more calories is nice, but there are many other health benefits of exercising in cold temperatures. 

Activates Fat-Burning

Cold exposure increases brow fat tissue, which is the type of body fat active in burning calories and using energy. Shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis (an increase in metabolic heat production) both heighten with cold exposure, which naturally leads to create calorie expenditure.


Cold exposure also increases the protein adiponectin, which helps fat burning, this protein also combats inflammation, particularly when we exercise in the cold. Studies have shown that exercising in the cold, reduces the inflammatory response compared to participants who exercised in regular temperatures.

Immune Boosting 

One clinical study found that after individuals participated in cold water immersion for an hour, their lymphocytes significantly increased, which are critical for immune system function. The study found overall indication of a more active immune system.

Helps Beat The Winter Blues

Cold exposure can cause physiological hormonal responses to help mood disorders like anxiety and depression. This includes the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and endorphins all of which help boost mood. Even better, when you winterize your workouts to expose yourself to the cold and to natural sunlight, you help ward off seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Winter Workouts & Calories You'll Burn

Below are 8 winter workouts and the approximate number of calories you'll burn with each. With any winter workout, be sure to dress appropriately, cover the extremities, ensure you have proper equipment, and take time to warm up your body prior to heading out in the cold.

Walking or Running

You can burn up to 45 percent more calories walking or running at your normal speed simply by going outside in cold temperatures! This means that you'll be revving up your metabolism and expending more energy by only changing what temperature that you're exercising in.


Not only is hiking in the winter better for avoiding crowds, but you'll get a great whole body workout, especially as uneven trail surface engages more of your stabilizing muscles. Add in the cold temperatures and hills and a 155 pound individual will burn 500 or more calories per hour. Just be sure to grab some ice-traction cleats if there's snow on the ground.

Snow Shoeing 

Snow shoeing adds extra weight to your feet, and there is an added resistance workout of moving through snow, which will make you work harder. For an hour at a moderate pace on flat terrain will burn 450 calories but take up the speed, add in hills and you're looking at doubling your calorie expenditure! Bring poles as they'll be helpful for stability and will create a more challenging workout, requiring more work from your upper body as you snowshoe. 


An 155 pound individual will burn about 450 calories per hour on the slopes. Of course, if you add in more moguls and strenuous runs, you'll be burning the quads and burning the calories -- working up your appetite for a little après ski snack! Cross country skiing is also a full body workout that can seriously torch the calories (500+ an hour), especially if you're breaking trail! 


Winter sledding as a workout? Well, you can get a great passive workout while you have some fun! Slogging uphill in the snow can be hard work. Plus, you’ll burn about 492 calories an hour. Tow a kid up the hill to burn even more!

Ice Skating 

Head to the ice and enjoy an fun glide around the rink! Figure-skating will burn 492 calories per hour, and an hour of hockey will go upwards of 562 calories per hour.

Mountain Biking

Grab your helmet and mountain bike and enjoy a fun snow ride. Most mountain bikes are built to withstand some snow and slush -- but if you have one -- a fat-tire bike is ideal for the snow. Just make sure to lower your tire pressure for extra traction in slick conditions. An hour of regular mountain biking burns about 600 calories, which means you'll be torching many more calories as your grind through the snow!

Snowball Fight

Ducking, sprinting, running and tossing snow balls can actually be compared to beach volleyball in regards to calorie burning (560 calories an hour). So, go get the family together and have a playful snowball fight! It will get your body moving and hopeful end in smiles and laughter. 

Things To Consider

Even as your energy expenditure will increase when exercising in cold temperatures, the exact number of calories you burn with any of these winter workouts will depend upon four factors:

  • Terrain
  • Snow Conditions
  • Pace 
  • Body Size 

To gain a more accurate understanding of your calorie expenditure consider using a fitness watch during your workouts. 

It's also very important to fuel your body with adequate macronutrients before and after a strenuous winter workout. Hopefully, this information helps you get a general picture of how many calories you’ll burn on your winter adventure, so you can pack the ideal meal plan.

Browse our nutritious, lightweight meals.

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