Beat the Winter Exercise Blues

Exercising during the winter months can be tough! It gets dark out super early and its cold, which can make it hard to stay motivated.  Winter is also a time when many people may struggle with SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which can make these months even gloomier.  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! Below are some key tips to beating those winter exercise blues.

Dressing properly for the outdoors is key to staying warm outside in the cold, and make your workout more enjoyable.  Without layers covering larger body parts like 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 to have 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
  • 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)

It is a safe practice to wear neon and/or reflective clothing, especially when its 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 sell reflective wraps that go on your wrists or ankles.  It’s a good idea to carry a flashlight, especially if you are walking or running outside.

As long as you are properly dressed for the outdoors, there is no limit to what you can do in the winter (except swimming outside, might be a bit too cold for that!).  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 or freezing temperatures.

Some fun activities include:

  • Running
  • Walking
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Ice skating
  • Pond hockey
  • Snow shoeing

If you don’t enjoy being outside when it’s cold, there are many ways to exercise indoors! Some ideas include:

  • 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
  • Strength training

A good place to start looking for indoor activities is checking out a local YMCA or gym, a Boys & Girls Club of America, or joining a sports team at your school or in your town.  When you are exercising, it can be fun bring along a friend or listen to music or a podcast on your phone.

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 exercise, it can be helpful to follow a planned workout.  Many personal trainers and fitness instructors have videos on sites such as YouTube and will direct you through a workout, such as 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.

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 ways to improvise 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 reps, you’ll definitely start to feel the burn!

For more exercise tips: check out the nutrition and fitness guides here:,,