Don’t let the crisp fall air and rich auburn leaves fool you. Winter is coming. But whether or not we’re in for another Polar Vortex, the good news is that freezing temps might actually help you slim down. According to a recent study by the University of Kentucky School of Medicine in Lexington, Ky., cold exposure prompts the body to convert white fat from the thighs and belly to calorie-burning brown fat.
The benefits of working out in cold temperatures to jump start the body’s fat burning process–brown adipose tissue, BAT, produces body heat when exposed to cold and helps to metabolize energy—was also shown in two previous studies, a 2013 Dutch study from the Maastricht University Medical Center, and a 2013 Japanese study by Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan.
(A bit of bad news, the University of Kentucky study found being obese hindered the process of converting white fat to brown fat, another reason why staying fit year round matters for everyone.)
So reverse your thought process that winter means packing on the pounds. Just bundle up and get going. Along with the traditional winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating, consider these four up and coming (and slightly quirky) active outdoor activities to feel the burn this winter.
Platform Tennis: Of course you can play tennis year round, but we’re not talking climate-controlled indoor tennis. Platform tennis, also known as paddle tennis in some areas, is played on elevated outdoor platform, specifically during the winter months. Platform tennis dates back to 1928 but its popularity has skyrocketed in the last decade, with public-access courts popping up nationwide. Even though some platforms may be heated to keep them free of ice, it’s still cold enough outdoors that participants often wear hats and gloves, fleece, and sweats. The American Platform Tennis Association maintains a list of platform tennis clubs by region and public access platform courts, including links to 14 public access courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Snowshoeing: Thousands of years old, as a practical way to traverse snowy land, snowshoeing is one of the fastest growing winter sports in the world. You don’t have to be a mountain daredevil to enjoy snowshoeing, but you do need some stamina. You can burn more than 600 calories per hour while snowshoeing, according to Snowshoe Magazine. Women make up nearly 41 percent of snowshoers, according to Snowsports Industries America. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources maintains a list of snowshoe trails by region. Or check out the top 10 snowshoeing parks and trails in New York and New Jersey as determined by the New York New Jersey Trail Conference.
Dog Sledding: You don’t have to trek to Alaska or Canada to try your hand at dog sledding. The Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pa. provides its own team of sled dogs for guests to explore the beautiful winter countryside. The resort also offers snow tubing, skiing, and snowshoeing. An added bonus of dog sledding: Research has shown that spending time with pets has numerous health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing stress.
Ice Golf: Before you roll your eyes and think golf, in the snow, puh-leeze, what will they think of next, know that ice golf dates back to the Middle Ages in Europe. There’s even the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championship, held every year in Uummannaq, Greenland since it first began in 1997. Today, ice golf, also known as snow golf, is played on fairways of snow or ice and the “greens” are called “whites” instead. To experience ice golf in the United States you’ll have to travel to the Upper Midwest, to Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, which host several ice golf tournaments each year. Two to consider: The Wayzata Chilly Open, on Lake Minnetonka, celebrates its 31st annual ice golf festival on February 7, 2015. and the Iceberg Open Golf Tournament at the Knickerbocker Ice Festival in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, February 7, 2015.