Colorful foliage, crisp air, and the anticipation of the holiday season—winter is here! If there’s a season that’s equal parts invigorating and inspiring, it’s winter. The summer festivities have died down (and maybe you had one too many ice cream cones) and it’s time to get back into shape. Plus everyone’s settling into a routine so there’s no better time than now to challenge yourself and get healthy, fit, and ready for the winter season. With a little planning and commitment, you can stave off winter weight gain and embrace the winter health kick. In this article, we’ve compiled our best winter fitness challenges. From outdoor hikes to indoor workouts and everything in between, here are 7 things you can do to get fit this winter (along with tips and tricks to make the most of the season).
Why Do a Winter Fitness Challenge?
There are many benefits of incorporating a winter fitness challenge into your routine. Here are just a few:
- You’ll jumpstart healthy habits after a summer of slacking, and just in time to beat the winter weight gain (8).
- You’ll boost your energy levels so you can take on the chilly weather with vigor (12).
- You’ll boost your immunity and fight off colds and flu (14).
- You’ll reinvigorate your exercise motivation and get in touch with the great outdoors.
- You’ll fight cravings that come with the holiday season and stay on track with your fitness goals (2).
7 Ways To Get Fit This Winter
We’ve rounded up our best winter fitness ideas to help you take on the season with enthusiasm.
1. Take On A 30-Day Winter Fitness Challenge
The science of habit formation has been researched for years. According to behavioral psychologists, it will take about 21 days for a habit to become automatic (11).
Within these days, you’ll have to continually trigger your brain to perform the action until it is embedded in your memory.
A 30-day fitness challenge gives you just enough time to form a habit and make fitness a regular part of your life.
Why a 30-day challenge? A 30-day challenge gives you a clear start and end time so you have the motivation to commit and push yourself during a designated period. In addition, having people join you in the challenge can help create accountability, motivation, and camaraderie.
Which challenge should you take on? You can choose a challenge based on your fitness level and experience. For example, if you’re an avid runner, you may consider a 30-day running challenge that involves increasing your distance gradually.
On the other hand, if you’re a beginner, a 30-day bodyweight workout challenge may be more suitable.
2. Enjoy The Great Outdoors
Secondly, it increases your exposure to natural light, which helps regulate your sleep/wake cycle and can improve your mood (7). Lastly, being outside gives you a chance to interact with nature and disconnect from technology—all of which have positive mental and physical effects.
Winter is a time when the outdoors are pleasant and inviting. What are some activities to do outdoors this winter? You can keep it simple with a walk.
While outdoors, note that winter weather comes with its own set of challenges. What seems like a slight chill in the morning can easily turn into a bone-chilling wind in the evening. So, make sure to dress appropriately to stay warm.
Furthermore, nightfall comes earlier in the day, so be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight if you plan on exercising after dark.
3. Get A Pedometer
If you were on a break, winter means getting back to a routine. As such, it can be tough to find the time and energy to fit in a workout. An easy way to stay consistent is to track your daily activity.
A pedometer will help you keep tabs on how much physical activity you’re getting throughout the day.
How many steps should you aim for? The general recommendation is to aim for 10,000 steps a day (10). However, if you have an existing health condition or injury, it’s best to speak with your doctor first and determine a realistic goal that works for you.
Once you’ve set a goal, squeeze in a few extra steps by taking the stairs, parking your car further away from your destination, or walking around while you’re on a call. You can also try a standing desk and a small portable treadmill so you can walk while you work.
By incorporating a pedometer into your daily routine, you’ll become more conscious of how much physical activity you’re getting and be able to better manage your time. Who knows, the extra steps may even inspire you to add in a few extra workouts throughout the week.
4. Use Your Couch To Your Advantage
Aside from refreshing scenery, winter heralds the return of sports season and new TV shows. The temptation to spend long hours on the couch can be strong and with winter, it’s easy to slide into a sedentary lifestyle.
However, being on your couch for hours doesn’t have to equal inactivity. Instead, use it to your advantage and incorporate some exercises into your viewing session.
For instance, you can do a few simple stretches during commercial breaks. This not only helps keep your muscles from stiffening up, but it also gets your blood flowing and energy levels up.
Or, use a pair of hand weights and do some bicep curls or shoulder presses when the show resumes.
Sofa yoga is also an option. This is a great way to practice yoga without having to leave the comfort of your couch (1). Start with easy poses like Cat-Cow and Cobra, then progress to more challenging poses like Warrior I and Chair.
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5. Revamp Your Diet With Winter Produce
Your local farmers market is the place to be when winter arrives. Fresh produce like apples, pears, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins abound.
According to research, brightly-colored fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can help boost your immune system and keep you healthy (9).
That’s not all, winter produce is generally low in calories and fat, making them perfect for a weight loss diet. The high fiber and water content of these fruits and vegetables can also help you feel full without consuming too many calories (5).
So, why not take advantage of the abundance of winter produce? Snack on apple slices with nut butter and sprinkle pumpkin seeds over your salad. Or, try roasting sweet potatoes or squash in the oven. The possibilities are endless!
You can also freeze fresh produce for later use. This way, you’ll always have a selection of healthy snacks even when winter produce is not in season.
6. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water is essential for staying healthy throughout the year. It helps replenish your body and keeps it functioning properly (16). While temperatures may still be mild during winter, the air can become dry quickly. Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day.
You don’t have to stick with just regular water either. There are plenty of alternatives such as herbal teas, coconut water, and even – for those chilly days – warm beverages like hot chocolate or kombucha.
Be wary of caffeinated drinks such as coffee or energy drinks. As tempting as they may be, too much caffeine can cause dehydration and disrupt your sleep cycle (6). If you need a pick-me-up, opt for green or white tea instead.
The Bottom Line
Winter is as good a time as any to focus on your health and fitness. Incorporating these 7 tips into your lifestyle can help you stay healthy and active all season long. So, get ready to enjoy the crisp winter air and have a healthy and active winter!
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!
- Adapted yoga to improve physical function and health-related quality of life in physically-inactive older adults: a randomised controlled pilot trial (2017, biomedcentral.com)
- A Role for Exercise in Attenuating Unhealthy Food Consumption in Response to Stress (2018, mdpi.com)
- Calories burned in 30 minutes of leisure and routine activities (2021, health.harvard.edu)
- Can Simulated Green Exercise Improve Recovery From Acute Mental Stress? (2018, frontiersin.org)
- Dietary energy density: Applying behavioural science to weight management (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of caffeine on sleep quality and daytime functioning (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of exercise with or without light exposure on sleep quality and hormone reponses (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence (2006, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Health-Promoting Components of Fruits and Vegetables in the Diet(2013, academic.oup.com)
- How many steps/day are enough? for adults (2011, biomedcentral.com)
- Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue: epidemiological evidence (2006, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Step Counting: A Review of Measurement Considerations and Health-Related Applications (2016, link.springer.com)
- The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system (2018, sciencedirect.com)
- The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all (2013, biomedcentral.com)
- Water, hydration, and health (2010, academic.oup.com)