Struggling to get up, out, and busy during the cold days? You’re not alone. Staying active is essential for good health all the year round, but getting the exercise we need in winter demands more motivation than some of us can muster.
For families especially, staying fit together takes effort – especially if you have warring siblings who struggle to co-operate at any time, let alone when exercising.
Still, just because there’s snow on the ground, a chill in the air, and ice on our lakes doesn’t mean you can’t get out there. In fact, that opens up new, exciting possibilities.
Here are just a few winter outdoors exercise ideas for families …
First and foremost, snowshoeing is one of the most healthy winter activities you can enjoy. For families, this is the perfect way to burn off all those calories consumed over the holiday period. For example, walking on flat terrain burns around 370 calories per hour (for someone weighing 120Ibs).
Meanwhile, trekking hilly areas covered with packed snow offers more than 1000 calories’ worth of exercise (for people weighing in at 180Ibs).
Now, we’re not suggesting you should send your kids walking for hours at a time with snowshoes on their feet, but trying this activity as a family is a fun way to kick-start your metabolism.
Nature Walks in National Parks
America’s national parks are beautiful all year round, and are an ideal site for a little nature-tour during winter. Take your kids on one of the many trails and see how many different types of flora and fauna you can spot, with incentives. For example, you might want to offer them a treat if they can identify five different kinds of bird, trees, etc.
Not only will going on a nature walk for an hour or more burn calories and work your muscles, it’ll also educate you all at the same time.
One of the great winter traditions: building a snowman.
Big fun? Absolutely. But there are actually various benefits to building a snowman, snowcastle, or any other snow-sculpture.
First, if you do this as a family, you’ll be working together to achieve a set goal, encouraging collaboration and communication. You’ll also be working your muscles as you scoop up snow, pack it in place, run around – building a snowman can burn around 285 calories per hour.
Once you’re done, you’ll get to stand back and appreciate what you’ve all accomplished together as a unit. It’s a fantastic way to get valuable exercise, bond as a family, and explore your creativity.
Sledding can burn around 450 calories per hour on average, mostly through stomping back uphill with your sled behind you. As anyone who does this on a regular basis will know, this does have a major impact on your thighs, at least!
Sledding can be enjoyed as part of a day of winter activities, such as hiking, ice skating, and building snowmen. Make the most of the crisp, snowy days while they’re here.
If you plan to play in the snow, go hiking, or sled, you’ll need to take drinks, spare clothes, and snacks with you. Carry your supplies in a waterproof backpack to keep them dry.
America is one of the most stunningly diverse countries on Earth, filled with immense natural beauty and countless awe-inspiring landmarks.
Our national parks are some of the world’s greatest, providing endless sights to enjoy, landscapes to wander, and activities to enjoy. Every year, millions of people – Americans and tourists from farther afield – visit our parks, to see the best we have to offer. In fact, 2016 is the National Park Service’s Centennial, and we have a lot to thank them for!
Still, while we all know Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, why not look to the less-obvious options across our country? There are plenty more underrated national parks to explore.
Next time you’re looking for the perfect spot for a little hiking, cycling, or family-time in the great outdoors, consider one of these five underrated sites …
North Cascades National Park (Washington)
North Cascades National Park is a truly incredible spot to visit, with the various areas inside it retaining the names they were given so many years ago.
You will discover Nooksack, Shuksan, Sahale, Skagit, and more, as as well as timeless pictographs left on Lake Chelan’s surrounding cliffs by the Chelan tribe.
This was established as a national park in 1968, and is a popular spot for mountaineers and hikers. Mount Triumph and Eldorado Peak are two of the most common destinations for dedicated climbers, and Mount Shuksan has the park’s second-tallest peak – at a staggering 9,127 feet!
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)
Based in the San Luis Valley, this was established as a park and preserve in 2004, though it had been known as Great Sand Dunes National Monument since 1932.
This is an unforgettable site to explore, featuring some of the highest sand dunes to be found in all of North America, measuring as tall as 750 feet. There’s plenty to see, with pine forests, six mountains topping 13,000 feet, and numerous wetlands (home to many different flora and fauna).
Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)
Isle Royale National Park was established in 1940, but was classed as a national wilderness area in 1976 before being registered as an international biosphere reserve just four years later. This hugely-expansive site actually reaches to Canada’s Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, at the border between nations.
For anyone looking to camp at a new site, there are 36 campgrounds available, with some fairly remote (accessible by private boats). Meanwhile, the Greenstone Ridge Trail is a popular hiking option, with 40 miles of path leading right across the island.
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve (Alaska)
Looking to truly get away from it all? This national park is one of the country’s most remote, with hot springs, lava flows, and other stunning features to enjoy.
This was established in 1978, and lacks the easy access offered by many other national parks. How do you get in? Bush planes, boats, snowmobiles, and even dog sleds are generally used depending on the time of year you visit.
Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
Established in 1929, Grand Teton National Park racks up millions of visits every year (in 2015 alone, it welcomed almost 3.5m guests).
One of the park’s most remarkable features? It retains an ecosystem best-described as close to pristine, home to much of the same flora and fauna which has been there since prehistory. It’s favored by hikers (unsurprising, given its 200 miles’ worth of trails) and mountaineers.
There are over a thousand campsites for people looking to immerse themselves in one of America’s most picturesque environments overnight.
No matter which of these underrated national parks you visit first, you should put plenty of time into researching the opportunities and facilities available. As always, taking the proper supplies and equipment will help you get the most out of your experience, and ensure you remain safe.