As an avid exerciser year-round, I can think of quite a few
alternatives to your normal treadmill routine! I commonly change my
primary exercise activities between winter and summer as well, simply
because new options tend to emerge with the seasons, and I get tired
of doing the "same old thing." I have included some indoor and outdoor
suggestions for you!
Cross Country Skiing or Snowshoeing
Of course, when you mentioned winter in Minnesota, I thought of two
of my favorite outdoor activities - Cross-country skiing and
Snowshoeing. Neither activity requires any special terrain, other than
snow, and you can usually rent equipment for a small fee if you don't
1. Cross-country skiing can take on either the classic style, or the
skate style. Both styles can be as aerobic as you want to make them
(from a basic walk/stride to a full-blown cardio killer workout) but
in either case, you will exercise both upper and lower body and
greatly increase your core (abdominal and back) stability due to the
requirement for balance on the skis. Cross country skiing involves
very little impact on your joints, so knee pain will not be a problem.
For classic skiing, you can go anywhere you want - in your
backyard, through the woods, on a golf course if allowed, since you
can make your own tracks.
For skate skiing, you will be better off if you can find a groomed
track somewhere nearby. Tracks are usually groomed by snowmobile to
facilitate a wide path for the diagonal stride of skating.
About cross-country skiing
"The Heart-Pounding Rewards of Skate Skiing," By Natalie Bartley
If you don't want to go outside, consider buying a Nordic Track ski
2. Snowshoeing requires nothing other than you and a pair of
snowshoes! If you are going uphill, you might want to add a pair of
poles for balance. Whether on a flat surface or going uphill,
snowshoeing is a great aerobic workout. You don't need deep snow,
How To Snowshoe
Power Walking or Race Walking
There is always power-walking, or race-walking, outside or on an
indoor track! This is a little bit different from the treadmill since
you can actually go somewhere, trek up some steep streets in the
neighborhood, do it on your lunch break if you work, etc.
World of Power Walking
What is the difference in power walking, fitness walking, and racewalking?
"Fitness walking is called by many different names - power walking,
fitness walking, health walking. Power walking is commonly used to
represent an exaggerated walking style. This style of overstriding and
exaggerated arm movements is often linked with injuries. Because of
this I don't generally use the term power walking. A better term for a
healthful energetic walking pace is "fitness walking".
Fitness walking is much more than a stroll or nature walk. When
fitness walking you incorporate the muscles of the upper body making
it a GREAT aerobic activity. It burns approximately the same calories
as running, yet it is much easier on the body. Because more muscles
are used it burns calories much quicker than less aggressive walking.
It also tones muscles in the buttocks, thighs, hips, shoulders, upper
back and abs. Most fitness walkers average about 12 to 15 minutes per
Swimming is one of my all-time favorite activities for an upper and
lower body aerobic exercise. It is the most "body friendly" sport I
know, since one tends to come out feeling like a limber rubber-band
when finished! Of course, you will need to find an indoor pool. You
don't need to have perfect technique, either. You can simply kick with
a kickboard, or do a lazy breast stroke if you want.
Indoor or outdoor ice-skating is another good aerobic activity. My
town just built a new ice-rink and implemented several "Learn to
skate" programs, including learn to ice skate, learn to power skate,
and learn to play hockey. In the summer, they actually offer "Learn to
Rollerblade" which is another fun alternative.
I KNOW they have skating rinks in Minnesota. My son is a hockey player
and I have spent many tournament trips in your state. There must be a
rink on every corner!!
Do you like Roller Skating? When I was growing up, I spent every
weekend over the course of 3-4 years going to the roller rink and
skating for hours. The only reason I don't do it now is because I
don't live near a roller rink.
Another fun sport I took up at one point was Boxing! It requires more
aerobic capacity than you can imagine, but you can take lessons, do it
indoors or in your basement if you have a bag to punch, and it is easy
on your knees. It is often not hard to find an introductory boxing
program - you might want to check in your area.
Karate is another great sport, which is very open to all ages and
sexes. I have been in classes with little kids and older men and
women. It is ALOT of fun, and requires brain activity, coordination,
and great body control!
Fun to learn but renting a court can be expensive unless you have a
good community center. If you have bad knees, the twisting action
might not be so great.
Of course, styles of aerobic tapes run the gamut from dancey to
kickboxing to step. Look through a catalog like Collage Video for
This can be great fun but not terribly aerobic. Still, you are on
your feet and you can get a mild workout.
You can either set up your own bike on a tension mount, or use a
cycle at the gym. Or...better yet, how about a spinning class?
Example of an indoor bicycle trainer
This is another good variation from the treadmill - easy on the
joints and still a good workout. You can usually find them at a good
For a picture, see
I'm sure there are other activities you might enjoy, but these are
some of the ones with easier accessibility that don't require a lot of
pounding on the joints. I hope you can find some alternatives you can