The days may be shorter in winter, and the temperatures cooler, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with the treadmill as your only workout buddy until spring arrives. Here’s the thing: Outdoor exercise can be incredibly beneficial for your body – and mind – no matter the time of year. A study published in Psychological Science shows that spending time in a park or other natural environment boosts attention span and memory, while being in an urban setting doesn’t have the same benefits.

Unfortunately, such factoids do little to motivate when you’re cozy on the couch. So, what will? Finding ways to move – or dare we say “play” – outside in ways that you genuinely enjoy. Time and time again, research shows that when it comes to creating healthy habits, nothing beats intrinsic motivation, or the desire to have a good time.

Head to your favorite place in nature and revive your winter wonder with these five fitness activities that will strengthen your muscles, burn calories, get your heart pumping, improve mental processes and, most importantly, remind you of how fun outdoor fitness can be. Three require snow, and the other two work even if your city or town doesn’t see the white stuff.

  1. Touch Football   

Between the sprints, passes and jumps, the average adult can stand to burn roughly 300 calories in a 30-minute game of touch football, according to Harvard Health Publishing data. That’s on a par with running a 12-minute mile! Don’t know much about football? That’s OK. Divide the family into two teams and wing it. Football is more fun (and funny) without rules, anyway.

2. Sledding Teamed With Hill Sprints 

Holding on as you barrel down a hill might be more of an adrenaline kick than a high-intensity workout. But running (or even walking) back up the hill – with a sled in tow, mind you – will boost your aerobic and anaerobic fitness, strengthen your entire posterior chain (the backside of your body), and help you torch extra calories for the rest of the day, thanks to the aptly named “after-burn effect.”

Sledding from mountain view

Photo: Jeff Hopper / Unsplash

  3. Cross-Country Skiing  

Cross-country skiers boast some of the highest levels of aerobic power observed in athletes – of any sport. Period. Try it out, and you’ll feel why. Also called Nordic skiing, it demands intense effort from your arms, legs, back, core and heart. Bonus: With cross-country skiing, entire families can actually stick together and ski as a group, rather than simply meeting up at the end of a run, à la downhill skiing.

Man cross-country skiing

  4. Snowball Target Practice 

Mark a large X in the snow, cross the yard, aim and throw! This can be an individual sport, or a competition with friends and family to see who can get the closest. As you pitch, you’ll do more than strengthen up your firing arm and shoulder because – little-known fact – a great throw is all about the butt. Focus on stepping forward and then driving through your front leg to help power each pitch.

Couple having a snowball fight

  5. Ice Skating 

Prepare to feel muscles you’ve never felt before. Whether it’s on a frozen lake or man-made rink, ice skating is a uniquely awesome workout in that it trains total-body proprioception – your body’s ability to sense where every joint and body part is, how and how fast they’re moving, and keep you in perfect equilibrium. The result: better balance, stability and coordination, even off of the ice.

Two girls ice skating indoors
Photo: rawpixel / Unsplash