Just because shoveling snow burns more calories than walking doesn’t mean it effectively replaces conventional exercise.

There’s numerous reasons why wintertime tasks should not be considered a substitute for a traditional workout regimen.

Let chores be chores and exercise be exercise. Don’t use snow and ice as an excuse to avoid the gym or your home exercise equipment. 

Winter Doesn’t = Stop Working Out

The idea that daily activities replace exercise has gone overboard, with recommendations of how routine winter chores can substitute for structured exercise.

I came upon yet another site that said that scraping ice off your car should actually count towards your daily exercise quota.

Unless your daily exercise quota consists of exceptionally low standards of what “exercise” should be, it’s ridiculous to think that scraping ice off your car replaces a weight training session, 30 minutes of yoga or group fitness class.

Or perhaps the 10 minutes it might take you to scrape off the ice means you can exit that group fitness class 10 minutes early?

“But I get fatigued scraping ice off the windshield. Doesn’t this mean it’s a good workout?”

There’s another way to see this. If removing ice from a window taxes your body, then you are in poor physical condition.

It means you need to, as the saying goes, hit the gym. Of course, the “gym” can be home exercise equipment (e.g., a few pairs of dumbbells, a kettlebell, a stepping box).

The site says that scraping the ice burns 56 calories in 15 minutes.

• Who in their right mind would be out in the frigid cold for 15 minutes just to burn 56 calories?

• You’re going to burn 56 calories in the next hour no matter what you do anyways!

• Will boosting this ahead by 45 minutes make any difference to your body?

Pour hot water from a pitcher over the windshield and you just got rid of the ice. This 30-second task won’t make you fat.

The idea of including the routines of daily living towards one’s exercise quota really gets out of hand when the site’s article points out that bundling up your kids for winter weather burns 37 calories in 15 minutes.

News As Old As the Hills: Living Burns Calories

Do you really want to believe that getting your children dressed for cold weather replaces the same length of time doing yoga, briskly walking, doing a triad of pushups, squats and lunges, or doing squat jumps mixed with upper-body dumbbell work?

Sometimes it’s not about the calories burned anyways. It’s about the type of movement.

While we’re at it, what’s the calorie count for making hot chocolate?

What’s the calorie count for stomping your slushy feet on the welcome mat before entering the house?

How about for pulling the space heater out of the closet? Where does this madness end?

Some people are so desperate to avoid conventional exercise that they’ve convinced themselves (with help from many silly online and print magazine articles) that their routine daily lives have a built-in aerobic and strength training regimen!

Winter Chores Do Not Replace Structured Workouts

I have spent 15 minutes shoveling my car out of deep stubborn snow to drive to the gym.

This was merely a warmup for the weightlifting session soon to come.

Shoveling snow out from under my tires hardly compares to the deadlift, squat, kettlebell swing and seated cable row.

In fact, it’s these exercises, when done intensely, that will enable you to effortlessly dig your car out of snow, while your panting neighbors are taking breaks every 30 seconds.

This isn’t to say that shoveling can’t be a grueling chore to some men and women. It most certainly is – to those with unfit bodies and weak, untrained backs.

The Best Way to Get a Fit, Trained Body

It’s just plain senseless to be out in the freezing cold to wipe off snow if it’s solely with the idea that it replaces a planned group fitness class, free-weight training or machine workouts.

• Chores (winter or summer) mean that one side of your body will be doing the brunt of the work, e.g., if you’re right-handed, most of the scraping and shoveling will be done with your left hand on the tool, arm extended, and right hand and arm as the driving force behind the tool.

• Conventional weight-bearing exercise means that both sides of the body are worked equally, which reduces the risk of injury and muscle imbalances.

• Outdoor winter chores mean being bundled up, which restricts freedom of movement – which is so important for effective exercise.

• If it’s cold enough, you’ll be distracted by an icy runny nose, inhaling frigid air, etc.

• Winter chores are also sporadic rather than consistent. You don’t know when that next snowfall will be.

Exercise Equipment Must-Haves for a Winter Home Workout

  • Several pairs of dumbbells
  • Tension bands
  • Exercise stool
  • Pull-up bar that attaches to door frame
  • Medicine or heavy ball
  • Big fitness ball
  • Cardio machine 

Even with a single dumbbell you can do effective exercises such as a “kettlebell” swing, weighted squat, standing or seated press-up, weighted stationary or walking lunge, bent-over dumbbell row, and standing or seated triceps extension.


Triceps extension


Bent-over dumbbell row. Freepik.com


Dumbbell squat. Freepik.com/fxquadro

For example, you can do the following:

  • Stepping drills or burpees while holding dumbbells
  • Stool jumps mixed with pushups
  • Lunges and squats with the dumbbells
  • Dips using the stool or a chair
  • An unlimited range of upper body work with the dumbbells and tension bands
  • All sorts of routines with the balls
  • And of course…pull-ups or even just hanging from the bar, as this will strengthen your shoulders and grip, plus increase the flexibility of your back muscles.

Let chores be chores, winter or summer, and…let exercise be exercise, all year-round.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 


Top image: Shutterstock/Chiyacat