Eight Free Ways to Exercise on a Snow Day: Fitness Fridays

Debt-Free Fitness

Winter has come!

We’ve had our first substantial (school closing, snow plowing) snow here in Nova Scotia, Canada, and today it’s dipping down to a frosty -30 degrees Celsius with wind chill across the province. As I mentioned in my first Fitness Fridays post, I’ve been focusing on free outdoor exercise since my graduation and the loss of my free student gym membership (RIP free-gym!).

My preferred outdoor exercises are pretty warm weather oriented. I love swimming on a seasonal basis, as well as bicycling and running on a (mostly) year round basis. I’ve heard too many horror stories from people who have endured serious injuries while participating in the latter exercises during icy conditions to continue with these fitness rituals on a regular circuit until the roads and sidewalks have been cleared. It’s not so much that you can’t run or bike in icy or snowy conditions, but rather that such conditions make the aforementioned exercises higher risk as well as more expensive to participate in safely and (in my sun-worshiping opinion) less enjoyable. As a result I usually stick to running outside when the sidewalks have been thoroughly plowed and salted, and are free from slush and black ice. I’m kind of a wimp like that.


Non-gym followers need not fear the cold, however. I’m working out a system to make winter fun again. Instead of using the weather as an excuse to forgo exercise all together, check out this little list of great indoor and outdoor workouts that can be done when the snow piles up and the temperature drops down:

1. Shovel That Snow

Okay, so obviously you’re going to do this anyway because you have to leave your house and emerge into the desolate, frostbitten real world some time or another… On a brighter note, did you know that with a little technique snow shoveling can be a great workout? “How great of a workout?” You ask.


An average 150lb person burns anywhere from 420-446 calories per hour shoveling snow.

Not 150 lbs? Calculate for your weight right here.


Combine that burn with the simple necessity of shoveling and you’ve got a wintertime workout that even I can’t turn down.

Before you go, remember a few fit tips to make sure that you stay safe and make the most of your snow shoveling workout:

  • Stretch your arms, legs, back and wrists before you start to prevent injury.
  • Squat and lift with your legs (work that booty).
  • DO NOT lift with your back. Ever.
  • Avoid bending over your hip flexors.
  • Flex and engage your abdominal muscles in order to get a bonus ab workout and ensure that your back remains straight and protected.
  • Keep the shovel close to your body.
  • Dress in warm layers, making sure to keep your hands and head covered and protected from frostbite.

2. Get Your Skate On

Hali’s freezing over, which means that the Oval is open for business! Throw on your snugly socks and some long john’s, grab a few friends, and head to the Halifax mainland commons for a free skate.

You’ll have so much fun that you won’t even notice that you’re burning 476 calories per hour.*


Not an urbanite? Pond rinks are one of Canada’s most beloved impromptu sports surfaces. Make sure to check the thickness of the ice before you set foot on it.

Still not convinced because you’re anxious about falling through the ice? No problem: build your own fall-through-proof backyard rink for super cheap. Get the instructions here.

*Calculation based on 150 lb person using MyFitnessPal (site linked above).

3. Let’s Hike, Put on Your Snowshoes and Shake the Blues

Time for a trip down memory lane… When I was a little debt-free darlin’ in my rural youth I spent many a pleasant day snowshoeing in the woods. My parents spent many a less-than-pleasant morning snowshoeing to the end of the seldom-plowed dirt road that we lived on in order drive into work, after having to park in a lot off of the main road. Like shoveling, snowshoeing can be a necessary part of Canadian life during our harsh winter season; it can also be an awesome way to get in a hike or take some wilderness photography  when the snow drifts have risen to seemingly insurmountable levels.

Burn points? Check off a whopping 544 calories per hour (assuming a weight of 150 lbs). Snowshoeing is literally the same as jogging at a rate of 5 mph in terms of calorie expenditure and it’s also lower impact. Double win!


Don’t own snowshoes and not able to afford a pair? Here’s a link to the snowshoe renting, borrowing, and buying guide for Nova Scotia, so you can find out where to score a pair for free or at a low daily cost.

4.Build a Snowman

Unleash your inner child and get ready to plan in the snow. You’ll squat, lift, walk, push and move…

Ultimately you’ll burn about 285 calories in an hour.


Pro Tip: Building a snow man is actually a really fun and super free date idea. It’s an awesome excuse to get cozy and see how creative your hubbie can be.

Add some food colouring to some water to bring masterpiece to life in colour.

I challenge you to build a Snow-na Lisa!

5. Have a Snowball Fight

It’s a great way to get moving! Set some ground rules about not including rocks or ice in your snowballs, and avoiding head shots, and get to work.

A snowball fight will wipe away 319 calories in one hour, although it can blast even more if you get seriously caught up in ducking, dodging and sprinting through the snow.


Trying to decide whose turn it is to pick up dish soap? Snowball fight! Looking to get the old gang together for a last hurrah over the holidays? Snowball fight! Trying to quell family dysfunction over a seasonal dinner? Grab uncle Jimmy and let him know he’s on your team for the snowball fight (Note: this may not improve this situation)!

6. Cross Country Ski

Like jogging and snowshoeing, cross country skiing burns about 544 calories per hour!


Read more about cross country ski rentals here.  Be advised that many of the community centers listed in this blog post’s section on snowshoeing also offer cross country ski rentals or loans if you simply call ahead.

7. Go Dancing

It’s cold outside? What a great excuse to turn up the heat on the dance floor!

Dancing burns an average of 306 calories in an hour and if you’re committing to a night out you’re probably looking at at least 2 or 3 hours of dancing. That’s a lot of calories!


Avoid sugary mixed drinks or alcohol consumption in general in order to maximize your burn and minimize your spending (or not…hey, there’s evidence to suggest that one or two drinks could have some benefits… just sayin’). Above all else, just dance… gonna be okay.

8. Search YouTube for a Free Workout Video

YouTube has a massive collection of free workout videos. These are the light of my life during periods of intense rain or freezing snow.

Not sure what type of workout to do?


If you don’t have a lot of equipment try searching:

  • Pilates (things like planking, leg lifts, and crunches: this form of exercise builds long lean muscle by using your body’s weight against you)
  • Yoga (holding poses for extended periods of time: this can stretch and build muscle, and be more or less intensive depending on what you look for)
  • HIT (high intensity training: get ready to sweat)
  • Zumba (it’s like dance aerobics: great cardio)

These forms of exercise can often be completed with little more than a mat. To maximize your home workout, exercise in front of a mirror in order to ensure that your form in on point.

Workout videos are available for people of all ages and at all levels. Never do something that hurts too badly and always discontinue an exercise if you feel faint!

 What’s your favourite snow day workout?


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