family outdoors making snowman in winter

It's cold outside, but that doesn't mean your family's activity level needs to freeze up. There are as many activities to choose from in the winter as there are in more temperate seasons.

Use the frosty weather to add variety to your family's usual choices for fun and fitness. Whether you live in a region with snow or can travel to one, snowy surroundings can provide interesting exercise alternatives and jazz up stale routines. Here are some ideas of ways to keep everyone in your family moving despite the chilly weather.

Ice Skating
While indoor ice rinks are available in some cities year-round, ice skating in winter holds a special magic. It feels great to glide onto the ice wearing mittens and a hat to match the frosty weather. Many larger metropolitan areas set up temporary outdoor rinks to offer Christmas shoppers a break from the mall.

Ice skating offers an enjoyable aerobic workout that even kids can enjoy. If children or other family members are shaky on the ice, invest in an introductory lesson or two to learn the basics. Make it a family tradition to visit an ice skating rink each winter. Your local Chamber of Commerce should be able to direct you to locations in your area.

The first snowfall brings delight to skiers who can't wait to hit the slopes. Your family can be among those sashaying down the hill, enjoying the fresh mountain air. Though downhill skiing can be a costly hobby, some sporting goods stores offer discounted lift tickets, or packages that bundle equipment with lift ticket costs. Skiing can be a great way for kids to gain confidence in a sport. Learning the basics through lessons early on can give kids a skill they'll have for life.

If downhill skiing isn't your speed, consider cross-country (or Nordic) skiing. Cross-country skiing is considered by many fitness experts to be one of the best full-body aerobic workouts you can get. The Mayo Clinic reports that for a 160-pound person, one hour of cross-country skiing burns over 500 calories per hour, compared with 365 calories when downhill skiing. With those results, who wouldn't want to try it!

Snow Shoeing
Worried that the snow is too deep outside your door to venture forth? Strap on a pair of show shoes, and lead your family on a winter walk to remember. Snow shoes allow you to walk on top of the snow without sinking down, so that you can enjoy an outdoor hike despite the weather. You can rent snow shoes at most ski shops and many sporting goods stores, and they provide a less expensive alternative to skiing for winter family fun.

Looking for a winter activity that the kids will enjoy as much as you will? Look no further than your neighborhood park after a snowfall. Hills are transformed into a sledder's paradise. Whizzing downhill on a sled is exhilarating, and walking back up the hill gets your heart pumping. So pick up a flexible flyer or snow saucer at the discount store, and head for the hills!

Building Snowmen
Not feeling up for a big workout or equipment rentals? One of the most fun winter activities of all is completely free, and available from the comfort of your own backyard after a snowfall. Gather the family together and build a snowman!

If you're feeling creative, there's no reason to limit your efforts to the traditional three snowballs crowned by a top hat. Let your kids take initiative and see what they can dream up. Everyone will not only enjoy fresh air and exercise, but a piece of yard art that will bring smiles for days to come.