Weighing In: Be Bold, Brave the Cold

Each week, our own fitness fanatics Leah Polakoff and Caitlyn Kronket will explore the latest workout crazes, diet fads and dish out tips for healthy living. Managing your schoolwork is tough enough- let us take care of your health.

We’ve solved winter’s chilliest equation and yep, there’s definitely a positive correlation between the temperature outside and the number of exercise junkies suddenly inhabiting the gym. It happens every year – as soon as we can see our breath we flock to the gym faster than birds flock to the south.

Unfortunately, a crowded gym on campus does not make for a good workout (who wants to wait 15 minutes for an elliptical just to be booted off 20 minutes later?). So, layer up and get ready to hit the slopes, trail or rink.  These outdoor sports aren’t just fun – they’re better exercise than you’ll ever get from a gym.

While we may not have snow in Happy Valley just yet, be sure to keep these in mind for when that winter wonderland finally does arrive.

Downhill Skiing
An avid skier myself, I can honestly say that nothing beats spending the day outside, zipping down snowy slopes. And if you think gliding downhill doesn’t require much energy, think again, my friend. According to “Health” magazine, skiing can burn up to 400 calories an hour and works the quads, hamstrings, calves and abdominals (you’re using them to maintain balance!).

While Stowe and Breckenridge aren’t exactly nearby, we do have a handful of choices right here in good ol’ Pa. Aside from our very own Tussey Mountain (great for beginners), we also have the blues – Blue Mountain (home to Pennsylvania’s highest point) to the east and Blue Knob to the south.  And if you head about two hours southwest you’ll find yourself at 7 Springs, Pennsylvania’s largest resort with 33 trails and slopes and seven terrain parks.

Just remember: wear a helmet and when in doubt, stick with green circles. And if all else fails, do the “pizza.”

Contrary to what you’re probably thinking, yes, snowshoeing still exists and no, the shoes are not tennis rackets. Even more intense than skiing, snowshoeing is said to burn about 8 calories a minute, which (we did the math) is a staggering 720 calories in a typical 90-minute trek.

Not only is snowshoeing an aerobic exercise that works everything from the arms to the legs, but you’ll also do so all while enjoying some of nature’s most pristine views (much better than the fuzzy television attached to the treadmill if you ask us).

The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (near Ohiopyle, Pa.) is a personal favorite, but Rothrock State Forest just south of State College is great local option. You can also check out this site for more trails in the area.
Oh, and if you you’re like most people and don’t have your own snowshoes, no worries – Appalachian Outdoors (123 S. Allen St.) carries a wide variety for sale and (drum-roll, please) rents as well! Give them a test-run for just $12 per weekday or $15 for a Saturday or Sunday.

Ice Skating
You don’t have to be the next Kristi Yamaguchi or Michelle Kwan to get a good workout from ice skating. Believe it or not, “Shape” magazine says that 90 minutes of this winter tradition can actually knock off close to 600 calories – once you’ve detached yourself from the wall, that is.

Like skiing and snowshoeing, ice skating is also a great form of aerobic exercise, but it’s easier on the joints (unless you’re a pro and attempting tricks or jumps). In addition to its low-impact cardio perks, skating works the inner thighs, glutes and lower back muscles.

Downtown Philadelphia and Pittsburgh both have beautiful outdoor rinks (Blue Cross RiverRink and PPG Place respectively), or you can head to the Penn State Ice Rink if you’re staying local. So go ahead and glide your way to a fit winter.

One final bonus: Not only are these winter pastimes great physical activity, but they’ll work wonders on your mental health as well.  A Study from “Mind” shows that getting outside has significant positive effects on everything from self-esteem to stress levels. So, over break, remember to bring back that winter gear that’s tucked away at home and instead of braving the cold, embrace it!

Photo by Tyler Hankins

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