Exercise: Strategies to Keep you Moving During the Winter

  • Young men's version of this guide

Exercising during the winter months can be tough, especially if you live in a cold climate where it gets dark super early. This can make it hard to stay motivated.  Winter is also a time when some people feel depressed or sad with the absence of sunlight which is called SAD (seasonal affective disorder). SAD can make these months even gloomier.

What are the benefits of exercise?

 Exercise is a great way to de-stress, release endorphins (brain chemicals that can trigger positive feelings), and keep your heart, muscles, and bones healthy and strong!

How do I make my workout more enjoyable when it’s freezing outside?

 Dressing properly for the outdoors is key to staying warm and comfortable which will make your workout more enjoyable.  Without layers covering your stomach, arms, and legs, your body will lose too much heat.  Heat is important to keep your muscles warm and blood flowing.  Important winter clothing items should include:

  • Gloves
  • A hat or ear band to keep your head and ears warm
  • Layers, such as wearing a long sleeve shirt underneath a warmer sweatshirt, jacket, and/or vest
  • Face mask or balaclava to keep your face warm if needed.
  • Leggings or sweatpants (or fleece-lined pants for extra warmth)
  • Thick socks (especially if you are moving around in sneakers, which are not as warm as boots)

How can I make myself more visible at night time?

During the winter there are fewer hours of daylight in which to exercise. It’s a safe practice to wear neon and/or reflective clothing, especially when it’s dark out.  By wearing this type of clothing, people and cars will be able to see you from far away.  Some examples of reflective gear include bright neon safety vests and reflective headbands and hats.  Some stores and online retailers sell reflective wraps that go on your wrists or ankles.  It’s also a good idea to carry a flashlight, especially if you are walking or running outside at night.

What about outdoor activities?

 As long as you are properly dressed for the outdoors, there is almost no limit to what you can do in the winter!  However, it is always a good idea to check the weather before you head outside to make sure there isn’t a snowstorm heading your way.

Some fun ideas include:

  • Running (when the ground is dry)
  • Walking
  • Skiing (downhill or cross country)
  • Snowboarding
  • Ice skating
  • Hockey
  • Snowshoeing

I can’t take the cold. Are there any indoor activities that will help keep me moving?

 If you don’t enjoy outdoor activities during wintertime, there are many ways to exercise indoors! Some examples include:

  • Indoor hockey
  • Indoor soccer
  • Basketball
  • Indoor swimming
  • Running or walking on a treadmill
  • Elliptical
  • Stair master or walking up and down the stairs at home
  • Yoga (hot or regular)
  • Strength training
  • Rowing (erg) machine

What are some affordable ways to work out?

Many local organizations such as the YMCA, and Boys & Girls Club offer “student discounts” at a big savings. You may also consider joining a sports team at your school or through a recreation center in your city/town.  Working out at home is another great way to keep active during the winter months without having to go outside. If you are new to exercising, it can be helpful to follow a pre-made workout.  Many personal trainers have uploaded workouts on websites such as YouTube that you can follow, including yoga, barre, or strength exercises incorporating squats and pushups.  There are also many apps you can download that will walk you through a variety of workouts.  Some of these apps have workouts that build upon each other, so every week you can try more challenging exercises.

I don’t own any fitness equipment. How can I work out at home?

If you don’t have a set of dumbbells or weights at home, don’t stress! You can build strength just through body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks.  You can also incorporate cardio exercises such as jumping jacks, high knees, and burpees that will get your heart rate up without having to run around.  Some other ways to use household objects include:

  • Walking up and down the stairs at home
  • Doing body-weight exercises on a rug or mat
  • Using a sturdy chair as a bench
  • Using a carton or jug of milk, a bag of rice or potatoes, or cans of soup as weights; it may sound silly, but after a couple of reps, you’ll definitely start to feel your muscles working hard!

It may take a couple of minutes to adjust to the cold, but don’t get discouraged! Take 5-10 minutes to warm up your body before you start an activity, and if you are trying a new one, you may want to bring along a friend or family member!

For more exercise tips: Check out the nutrition and fitness guides below: