Winter can be a difficult time to keep up with your fitness routine. For one, the cold weather can make you less likely to want to get out and exercise. Not to mention limited accessibility to certain activities, due to the winter weather. And if you’re down with the winter blues, it can be even harder to get motivated. Add the calorie-rich comfort foods of the season and it’s easy to see how quickly your fitness goals can get derailed. If you’re planning to stay active during the coldest months of the year, we have a solution for you. We’ve compiled some options you may want to consider for your winter exercise routine, along with the pros and cons of each.
Winter Indoor Exercise Ideas
When the elements aren’t on your side, you can always turn to indoor exercise ideas. Not only are they a great way to stay warm and active when the weather won’t cooperate, but you can also break out of an exercise rut thanks to the variety.
Nothing beats riding in the great outdoors, enjoying the fresh air and scenery.
In fact, being outdoors is linked to improved mental well-being (5). But in the winter, the cold breeze hitting your face while pedaling along isn’t so enjoyable. And there’s always the risk of slipping on icy roads.
Enter indoor cycling aka spin class. This is the perfect option when the weather won’t cooperate.
Research shows numerous benefits of indoor cycling – it can help lower your risk of heart disease, improve your cardiovascular fitness, and help you lose weight (3). All this without having to brave the cold.
A typical spin class includes a warm-up, main ride to upbeat music, and cool-down. Most classes are at least 30 minutes in length and instructors will often use interval training as part of the workout.
- Convenient, no weather-related hazards to worry about, high calorie burn (around 500 – 600 calories/hour), low impact on joints, fun, and energizing.
- Expensive (especially if you attend regularly), can be difficult to follow if you’re new, and some people find it monotonous and boring.
- Depending on how far the class is and the weather, you may still need to brave the cold.
Yoga can be a great way to stay active and improve your physical and mental well-being during the winter months. It’s low impact, which makes it ideal for those with joint issues, and provides a full-body workout that tones and strengthens your muscles.
This exercise ranks highly among indoor winter exercise ideas because of how many variations of it exist, and just how adaptable it is.
Sofa yoga, for example, is the antidote for those who just don’t have the energy to get off the couch. You can also practice yoga in the warm and inviting atmosphere of a hot yoga studio.
No equipment is needed for your foray into yoga, just a mat and comfortable clothes.
If you’d like to take your practice further, there are numerous types of props available to purchase that are relatively affordable, and highly portable. We’re talking about yoga blocks, straps, and even chairs.
Researchers find that when the weather is colder, those affected can experience depression-like symptoms (6). Luckily, yoga can help. Practicing yoga can reduce anxiety, stress and depression, making it an ideal form of exercise for anyone battling the winter blues (2).
- Easily accessible (can be done in the comfort of your own home), affordable, and low impact on joints.
- Improves flexibility, posture, strength and balance.
- Can be adapted to suit all fitness levels.
- You may need to purchase props, and it has a learning curve.
- You’ll spend more time practicing to perfect your poses, so it’s not ideal for those who are short on time.
Wading in water might not sound ideal in freezing winter temperatures, but indoor swimming is the perfect way to stay active in the winter months.
Heated pools are a thing, and they make swimming a lot more bearable. Plus, when you’re in the pool, you don’t feel the cold air.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swimming has multiple benefits – it’s a great way to strengthen your muscles and bones, improve your cardiovascular fitness and endurance, and it can even help with weight loss (4).
Furthermore, water supports your joints, which makes it low impact and ideal for those who have joint pain.
Given the need for a year-round warm pool, indoor swimming is generally the domain of those who have their own pool or access to a gym with a pool membership.
- Low impact on joints
- Full-body workout that strengthens muscles and bones, ideal for those with joint pain or injuries
- No weather-related issues to worry about.
- Expensive if you don’t have a pool or access to a gym, can be time consuming if you need to travel to and from the pool.
- The commute could be a struggle, depending on the weather.
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At Home Workouts
Just because the roads are icy and you can’t commute to the gym, it doesn’t mean you can’t get your sweat on. Every home can be your “gym” – that is, space for you to work out without leaving the comfort of your own home.
At-home workouts are the perfect way to stay active during the winter months for several reasons.
First, you don’t have to worry about delays or cancellations due to the weather.
Second, there’s no need to purchase equipment – you can use your bodyweight, or portable and affordable items such as resistance bands and weighted medicine balls.
Last but not least, you can fit your workout around your own schedule.
Unfortunately, experienced gym-goers might find it hard to motivate themselves at home, which can be a real issue when you’re lacking in energy. Plus if you’ve been benching heavy weights at the gym, it’s hard to replicate that same level of intensity at home.
Even so, rather than skipping your workout altogether, you can use at-home workouts as a way of maintaining your health and fitness during the winter months.
- Affordable, convenient and you don’t need to buy lots of equipment.
- You can fit your workout around your own schedule, and you won’t have to worry about the weather.
- It can be hard to motivate yourself and find enough intensity if you’re used to the gym.
- You may need to purchase some equipment, depending on what exercises you wish to do.
- The intensity of your workout may be limited if you’re using bodyweight exercises.
According to research published in the National Library of Medicine, boxing is one of the most effective forms of exercise (7). It uses multiple muscle groups at once, while at the same time improving coordination and balance.
Boxing is a great way to get your heart rate up, by pushing yourself to throw more punches and move around the ring.
Plus, you don’t need a partner – a punching bag is enough to get the job done. The reverse is also true; if you can’t afford a punching bag, you can shadow box instead.
Shadow boxing means throwing punches at an imaginary opponent, using the same movements as if you were hitting a real person.
If you’ve never boxed before, it can be hard to learn the different punches and combinations, as well as understanding where to put your feet. It’s best to find a coach or attend a class if you’re serious about taking up boxing.
- Great full-body workout that increases coordination and balance, can be done with or without a partner, and you don’t need to leave the house.
- It can be difficult to self-motivate.
- Punching bags can also be expensive if you need to purchase one.
- It’s also important to find a coach if you can, as it can be difficult to learn the punches and combinations without one.
At Home Treadmill Workouts
Have some space in your house? A treadmill can be a great way to stay active during the winter months. Treadmill workouts are an effective form of cardio, and you can use different settings and speeds to keep things interesting.
The main benefit of having a treadmill at home is convenience – no need to brave the cold and icy roads, no need to worry about your gym closing due to bad weather.
You’ll be able to fit your workout into your own schedule, and you can switch up the intensity of your cardio whenever you feel like it.
Unlike other exercises that may be difficult to replicate at home, such as weight lifting, the treadmill is easy to use. Just jump on and go!
- Convenient, no need to leave the house, and you can switch up the intensity of your workout.
- Can be expensive to purchase or rent a treadmill.
- It can be hard to find the motivation to use a treadmill at home, as it can be a bit boring.
- It can also take up a lot of space.
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Conditioning your body is just as important as cardio when it comes to fitness. Pilates offers a great way for you to improve your flexibility and strength, without having to leave the house.
Pilates is great for increasing core strength, improving posture and toning muscles (1). You can find lots of free classes online, so you can follow along in the comfort of your own home.
Pilates movements are also relatively low-impact, so it’s a great way to exercise without putting strain on your joints.
Most classes use equipment such as yoga mats and exercise balls to help you get the most out of your workout.
Reformers, which are special Pilates machines, can be used to add resistance and help you perfect your technique. But these aren’t necessary, as there are plenty of moves you can do without any equipment.
- Low-impact and great for improving flexibility and strength, no need to leave the house and you can find classes for free online.
- Equipment such as reformers and exercise balls can be expensive, and it can be hard to replicate reformer exercises without the proper equipment.
Safety Considerations For Indoor Winter Exercises
No matter what indoor exercises you choose to do in winter, it’s important to take extra safety precautions:
Make sure there is adequate space for your exercise – you don’t want to be running into tables or furniture!
You want to make sure you have enough room to move and that you won’t be tripping over anything. If you don’t have a lot of space, it may be better to select a low-impact exercise such as yoga or pilates.
Wear appropriate clothing and shoes to prevent slips, trips, and falls. If you’re running on a treadmill, make sure your footwear has good grip and cushioning to absorb the impact of your steps.
It can be tempting to push yourself too hard, especially when you’re doing an exercise at home. Remember to listen to your body and take breaks if needed. This is especially important because you don’t have a trainer or class instructor in the room to keep an eye on you.
Winter Outdoor Exercise Ideas
Getting an outdoor workout isn’t impossible in the winter! Depending on where you live, it may be possible to get some fresh air and get your heart rate up.
As an experienced runner, you can brave the elements and go for a run in cold weather. You’ll have to take the following precautions:
- Choose a safe route – opt for sidewalks and well-lit paths.
- Protect your skin from the elements – dress in layers, wear a hat and gloves, and protect your eyes from the sun.
- Be aware of icy conditions – watch out for slippery spots on roads, bridges and trails.
- Be aware of early sunsets – if you’re running in the evening, don’t forget to take a headlamp and make sure someone knows your route.
- Great for getting fresh air, minimal disruption to your regular routine.
- Weather conditions can be unpredictable and it can be dangerous to run in cold temperatures due to the risk of hypothermia.
Hit the slopes with your friends and burn some calories while you explore the ski resort. Skiing or snowboarding is a great way to get a full-body workout, and it’s also an exciting way to spend the day.
Unless you have a great deal of experience, it’s best to venture into these snow sports under the supervision of an instructor. Make sure you use the right equipment and appropriate clothing to keep yourself safe while on the mountain.
- An exciting way to get exercise in the winter, great for improving balance and coordination.
- Equipment can be expensive, slopes can be crowded and you may have to travel far from home to find a suitable resort.
Even in winter, you can dust off your bike and take it out for a spin. As long as you stay on the roads and trails, cycling is a great way to get some exercise in cold weather.
For safety reasons, you’ll want to make sure your bike is in good condition and it’s well-lit for night rides. Make sure you wear a helmet and dress appropriately for the weather.
- Low-impact exercise that’s easy on the joints, can help you explore your local area.
- Conditions can be dangerous due to snow, ice and traffic.
- Can be difficult to find a suitable trail for biking.
Safety Considerations For Outdoor Winter Exercises
Exercising outdoors in winter can be dangerous if you’re not careful. Be sure to take the following safety precautions:
Don’t bank on the heat and sweat from your workout to keep you warm. If anything, sweating can make you colder because your sweat will evaporate and cool off your body. Wear layers to ensure that you stay warm during your workout.
A good game plan is to layer up with a breathable base layer, an insulating mid-layer, and a waterproof/windproof outer layer.
You’ll need thicker socks that provide insulation and cushioning to keep your feet warm and dry. Your ears, hands, and feet are most susceptible to cold weather, so be sure to protect them.
Waterproof shoes are a must to keep your feet dry and protected from the wet snow.
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you don’t need to hydrate. In fact, it’s even more important to stay hydrated during the winter because cold air is dry and can sap the moisture from your body.
Drink plenty of water to keep your body functioning as it should and make sure to bring a bottle with you on your outdoor workouts.
Stick To Clear Paths
Be mindful of the conditions when exercising outdoors in winter. Look for clear paths that are free from snow, ice, and slippery surfaces.
Don’t attempt to go off-trail in areas you’re not familiar with – it’s easy to get lost or slip and injure yourself. If you do venture into the snow, wear spikes or special shoes that can help provide traction and avoid icy patches.
Check The Weather
Before heading out, be sure to check the temperature and forecast. If it’s too cold, stay inside and find an indoor activity that’s safe and enjoyable.
Make sure you’re visible to drivers, especially if you’re running or cycling in the dark. Wear bright colors and reflective gear to ensure that you can be seen from a distance.
Staying active during the winter months can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Whether it’s boxing, a treadmill workout, or home workouts, there are plenty of ways to keep your fitness levels up.
It may be hard to motivate yourself, but take comfort in knowing that you are taking steps to improve your health and fitness. Remember, there’s no need to suffer through harsh weather or rush to the gym – just find activity that you enjoy and fits your own schedule.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Effects of a Pilates exercise program on muscle strength, postural control and body composition: results from a pilot study in a group of post-menopausal women (2015, nih.gov)
- Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life (2011, nih.gov)
- Health Benefits of Indoor Cycling: A Systematic Review (2019, nih.gov)
- Health Benefits of Swimming (2022, cdc.gov)
- Nurtured by nature (2020, apa.org)
- Seasonal Depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder) (2022, clevelandclinic.org)
- The feasibility and effectiveness of high-intensity boxing training versus moderate-intensity brisk walking in adults with abdominal obesity: a pilot study (2015, nih.gov)