4 Fun Outdoor Winter Activities

Fun outdoor winter activities are essential in promoting mental and physical health through the winter months.

Even When It’s Below Freezing

Physical activity is an essential part of living a healthy lifestyle. You know this, and I know this (even if I don’t usually get active as much as I should). Moreover, outdoor physical activity is even more important for children! But, when it gets cold, it’s easy to curl up on the couch and marathon cooking shows. These 5 fun outdoor winter activities are guaranteed to get you out of the house!

Why does it matter if I go outside?

Surely, I could stay inside and do yoga? Or run on the treadmill? Or do a couple of sit-ups and then lie on the floor for an hour?

Why do I have to go outside when it’s cold, and windy, and icy?

Why should I leave the house when the air outside hurts my face?

These are all good questions, and I would be lying if I said that I left the house every day. (I’ve actually gotten really good at not going outside for a week at a time). But, there is scientific research that shares the benefits of outdoor winter activities!

First off! Being outside is good for mental health! Sure, in this first study, they were talking about green spaces, and, at least where I’m from, there isn’t so much green after September 30th. Nevertheless, the study showed that proximity to outdoor green spaces (or white, in my case), boosted overall wellness.

Outdoor activities also lowered stress levels, blood pressure, and the chance for behavioral problems. The researchers further advocate for the benefits of walking daily, benefits that do not go away when the seasons change. These benefits include:

  • managing weight and blood pressure
  • decreasing risk of heart attack and stroke
  • protecting against hip fracture (and improving overall bone strength)
  • improving sleep
  • and boosting overall wellness

Fun Outdoor Winter Activities For the Whole Family

Technically speaking, we know that being outdoors is good for us. Fresh air supports lung health, lowers stress, and relaxes our bodies.

But when it’s cold and icy, and the swings are covered in snow, it can be difficult to imagine what we can do outside. Do you really want to risk running when you have to walk like a penguin to reach your car? I don’t know about you, but I’m not doing yoga in the park when I’m wearing a snowsuit.

So what can we do?

Below I’ll outline several affordable (or FREE) outdoor winter activities that you can enjoy with the whole family!

Ice Skating

Ice skating is one of many fun outdoor winter activities that the whole family can enjoy
Photo by Kelli McClintock

Now there is a bit of a learning curve with this one. I confess I only tried my first pair of hockey skates about a week ago when my partner decided to teach me how to skate.

That doesn’t mean this isn’t a fun outdoor winter activity!

Even though I was TERRIFIED of falling my first time on the ice (I only actually screamed once) and I admittedly never let go of my boyfriend’s arm, even I can admit I had a blast!

The best part about ice skating is it requires minimal equipment (just a pair of knife-shoes) and can lead to other activities like hockey or ringette!

In my hometown, Calgary, Canada, we have lots of free ice rinks that are outdoors, including my favorite, Olympic Plaza. Between being terrified I would fall on my face, and the music, I had a wonderful time!

This is definitely a fun outdoor winter activity that I’m adding to my winter wellness kit!

Tobogganing (Sledding)

Like ice skating, tobogganing requires minimal equipment. Just warm clothes, a sled/crazy carpet/flying saucer, and hot cocoa afterward.

Sledding was definitely one of my favorite outdoor winter activities when I was growing up. My parents own a farm on top of a hill, so with the perfect terrain just outside our door, my brother and I spent a lot of time zooming down as fast as we could on plastic toboggans.

The best part of sledding is that you get a workout and an adrenaline rush! Sure, it’s exciting to fly down a hill into a soft snowbank, but trudging through snowdrifts to get to the top of the hill will make any child or adult exhausted.

Sledding is a fun outdoor winter activity
Photo by Jeremy McKnight

Winter Scavenger Hunt

Sometimes you need to do something a little less intense in the winter. That’s where a winter scavenger hunt comes in to play.

What is a winter scavenger hunt, you ask?

Well, whether a game of I-spy on your daily walk or an actual planned out scavenger hunt, this game improves wellness in several ways.

  1. It gets you out of the house and into the fresh air
  2. It uses the 5 senses and builds a foundation for future grounding techniques
  3. It allows us to explore an environment we are otherwise entirely used to

Fun things to look for in a scavenger hunt include animals (like squirrels or birds), footprints (especially if it has just snowed), or various twigs and branches. If you’re scavenger hunting with a kid, encourage them to recognize things that don’t belong in the environment (like trash), and be sure to (carefully) pick it up.

Building a Snow Fort

You thought you had enough of snow, didn’t you?

I simply could not complete this list without including building snow forts as the ultimate outdoor winter activity!

Snow forts encourage creativity and ingenuity in children. Whether they are burrowing in a large snowdrift or building a proper igloo, it encourages kids to build and be proud of what they built.

While precautions should be taken (supervision of children is important in case a snow fort collapses), this is a fun outdoor winter activity that every child should experience (if they live somewhere that it snows).

Fun Outdoor Winter Activities? Yes, Please

Ultimately, winter is a good time to stay in and cuddle. My favorite part of this season is tea, blankets, and a good romcom. But outdoor activities are important, and should not be neglected just because it’s a little chilly outside.

Skating, sledding, walking, and building snow forts are all affordable ways to get out of the house, and they aren’t limited to kids’ activities either.

Most of the fun outdoor winter activities on this list came from my childhood (except for skating), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as fun now! While there are limitations to these activities (snow, temperature, landscape), I encourage you all to take the chance to try something new!

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