7 heart healthy outdoor activities to try this winter

Embrace Saskatchewan’s winter with these heart healthy outdoor activities! Keep reading to learn more about how your favorite winter activities can improve your cardiovascular health.

We all know that Saskatchewan winters are not always the most pleasant… but many winter activities provide great options for improving cardiovascular health. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, it’s best to try to get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week – that’s less than half an hour per day. Even exercising in 10-minute activity increments can have a positive impact on your health.

Not only is getting outside great for staying active, but it’s also important for your mental health. The winter months can feel long and cold, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t fun ways to get outside and enjoy our beautiful province. This is great for a change in scenery, getting fresh air and sunlight, and switching up your daily routine.

Before you head out on your winter adventure, there are a few items to keep in mind to make sure you stay safe while getting outside.

  • Drink water. Don’t forget to stay hydrated. When you’re cold, it might not be as intuitive to drink water, but when you’re moving and being active, your body needs water to stay hydrated.
  • Check the weather before you head out. Don’t forget to consider the windchill in your area.
  • Dress appropriately and bring extra layers. It’s better to be too warm than cold when getting outside in the winter. If you are able, have a plan to warm up in case it gets too cold.
  • Plan and stay in communication. If you’re heading ‘off the beaten path,’ make sure you’ve checked your route ahead of time, have let someone know where you are going (whether you’re going alone or not), and have access to service if you need to call for help.

Winter activities for improving heart health

  1. Skating. Whether you’re an avid skater, or you’re looking to learn, skating is a great activity to encourage a healthy heart. Skating is a low-impact form of aerobic exercise to improve your cardiovascular health. It’s also a fun way to build your endurance while working on your balance!
  2. Skiing. Both cross-country or downhill skiing are great way to increase your heart rate while doing something fun. Cross-country skiing is great for endurance training, while downhill skiing is also an effective way to interval train – after working hard skiing down a run, you get a break while going back up the mountain on the lift. Read more about why skiing is a great workout here.
  3. Snowshoeing. Another aerobic exercised disguised as a fun winter activity! Snowshoeing works to improve cardiovascular health, but it is also a great workout for your muscles and working on your balance. Read more on the health benefits of snowshoeing here.
  4. Tobogganing. If you’ve ever been tobogganing, you likely remember the fun times while sliding down the hill and those less fun times making the climb back up… This is actually another great way to get some interval training in while having some fun. This is also the perfect activity to get the whole family outside and moving.
  5. Winter walk/run. On those days you just want to get outside for a few minutes, bundle up and take a walk around your neighborhood. This is a great option if you are only able to fit in a quick activity session –  10 minutes around the block is better than nothing! If you’re feeling adventurous, head out for a winter run or check your area to see if there’s a winter hike nearby. Make sure you take some time to double check you have the proper gear for heading out on a winter hike.
  6. Build a snow fort. Before the snow starts to melt, spend an afternoon getting creative and getting outside by building a snow fort. Lifting the heavy snow while crafting your snow palace gets your body moving and provides an opportunity to let your creative side out.
  7. Shoveling snow. Although shoveling snow might be less exciting and fun than going snowshoeing or skiing, it’s a great way to get in some exercise and fresh air in the winter. After a big snow fall, shoveling snow can be quite the workout. To ensure you are staying safe, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommend the following tips:
    • Warm up your muscles before you start.
    • Take breaks when you need! This is another activity that you can break into 10 minute increments if needed.
    • Dress appropriately for the weather and in layers in case you get too warm.
    • Do your best to shovel the snow while it’s still fresh and before it freezes.
    • Stay hydrated!
    • Listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right, it’s time to take a break or stop.

If you want to commit to taking care of your health this year, a Personal Health Plan is a great tool to add to your toolkit. Not sure what kind of insurance you should have, or where to get started? Check out Insurance Basics for a crash course in Insurance 101 – including terms and definitions, why you should have insurance, and how to get started.