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The Most Popular Winter Activities for Older Adults

December 18, 2018



Just because it’s colder outside and the snow may be flying doesn’t mean you have to stay inside looking for things to do. There are plenty of activities for older adults you can do during the wintertime to stay in shape.

Studies show exercising in the cold does your body good. In the cold, your body can regulate its temperature a little better, meaning you can often exercise farther or longer so you can burn more calories. There are some you can even do with your kids or your grandkids.

Here’s a list of winter activities for older adults that will not only get you moving, but will build strength and burn calories.


It’s not going to be snowy and icy every day this winter, so why not layer up and head out for a walk? The health benefits of walking seem endless. In fact, a recent study by the American Cancer Society found that even low levels of walking can help you to live longer. Older adults in the study who did even a little walking at a moderate pace had a decreased risk of death compared with those who did little or no activity.

Another study found older adults who walk in groups walk more often and for longer periods of time.

If you do go outside for a walk, dressing in layers ensures you stay warm when you first get out there. You can always uncover if and when your body warms up. Whenever you’re spending time outside in the cold, be sure to cover your extremities (fingers, toes, ears) and wear a hat.

Cross-Country Skiing

Of all the winter activities for older adults, this one could burn the most calories. In fact, at high intensity you can burn as many as 1,000 in an hour. We’re not asking you to do that, but this is a joint-friendly activity with lots of health benefits, that’s lots of fun.

Cross-country skiing uses your legs, quads, glutes and, because you’re pushing off the ground with each step, all that leg strength you’re gaining will help you with your balance.

Skinning (Uphill Skiing)

One of the more challenging winter activities for older adults is uphill skiing, also known as skinning.

It’s very similar to cross-country skiing, but you’re going uphill. Our recommendation is to find a park with some little hills to start out, especially if you’re a beginner.

The goal here is long, smooth strides. Your skis need to be on or just barely above the snow as you take your next step. Focus on keeping your chin up and chest open for efficient breathing and body positioning.

You can burn as many as 18 calories a minute while skinning and strengthen your hamstrings, glutes and quads with each step.


If you’re looking for a winter activity for older adults with aerobic benefits that is easier on the joints than downhill skiing, this is it. The health benefits are great. Even snowshoeing at two miles per hour on packed snow on a flat trail will burn almost 500 calories per hour.

On snowshoes, your weight is spread out over a larger area to provide flotation. Modern snowshoes are typically made with lightweight aluminum frames and a durable synthetic material for the decking. It’s a great cardio workout.

If you feel adventurous, there are a number of snowshoe trails you can try. But really, all you need is some flat land covered in snow. Maybe there’s a baseball field or a park where you live that you can walk in.

Ice Skating

Ice skating can be a great winter activity for older adults. Talk to you doctor first to make sure you’re ready (in case you fall). Skating is a great way to socialize, and you can burn anywhere from 200 to 300 calories in a half-hour.

You may also be surprised to hear it’s becoming one of the more popular exercises for seniors.

Whether you go outdoors or decide to stay inside to exercise this winter, it’s very important to stay active. By staying active you’ll reap many health benefits, including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Reducing the risk or impact of chronic diseases and illnesses
  • Improving balance, flexibility and mobility
  • Sleeping better
  • Maintaining brain health

For more information on the updated physical activity guidelines for Americans, check out our guide “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.”  Inside you’ll find more ways to ease yourself into an exercise routine and how hard you should be working out to see results.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans