MILWAUKEE, WI - During this time of year it's a natural instinct for our bodies to tell us to stay indoors and load up on calories to keep warm and cozy all winter long. But this sort of lifestyle may cause one to pack on the pounds and can lead to a range of health-related concerns.

While some prefer to head to the gym to keep up their fitness routine, Amy Goldwater, M.S., educator, former body-building champion, and physical fitness expert for TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, recommends a list of creative outdoor activities to enjoy with family and friends.

"Fun activities like snowball fights, making snow angels, and building a snowman count as exercise and burn calories," Goldwater notes. "For example, a 150 pound person burns an average of 285 calories per hour building a snowman, 319 calories per hour during that snowball fight, and 214 calories burned per hour making snow angels."

Other winter "fitness" activities to consider include :
· Building a snow fort or igloo;
· Playing chase, tag, or hide and seek;
· Having a scavenger hunt for winter nature items, such as animal tracks, pinecones, or bird nests;
· Shoveling a path in the yard like a maze;
· Setting up an obstacle course in the yard with jumps, tunnels, and other challenges;
· Playing Frisbee/disc golf on a local course or at home.

All of these activities burn significant calories during participation. In fact, an hour of snow shoveling can burn 340 calories.

Traditional outdoor winter activities also are excellent fitness opportunities, according to Goldwater. Ice-skating, hiking in the snow, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, offer great cardiovascular workouts. Remember to dress warmly and in layers; stay hydrated; keep hands, feet, and head warm with outerwear; and keep an eye on the weather forecast for snow and wind chill warnings.

Eat a light snack an hour or two before working out, to add energy and prevent distracting hunger pangs. Ideal snack options should be low-fat and include fruit smoothies; a few handfuls of nuts; hard-boiled eggs; and fast-digesting, high-glycemic fresh fruit like watermelon, grapes, pineapple, and bananas.

"Sunblock is important in the winter, too," Goldwater says. "Using an SPF of 15 or higher will help protect your skin from sunburn that can occur when exercising in snow or high altitudes. Also, don't forget to wear a lip balm that contains sunscreen."

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 63 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view or call (800) 932-8677.


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