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Exercise and Fitness

Fitness Topic: Exercise in the Winter

Kirill Shumilov | Exercise Specialist
/ December 2, 2022
lunges with snow on ground

With the winter months upon us, exercise can become more of a challenge. These months bring in cold weather, dark skies, shorter days, and holiday parties. The combination of these factors create barriers to overcome in order to maintain your health and fitness goals. Whether you’ve been exercising outside routinely through the warmer months or only recently started up a new exercise routine, the winter weather pushes a lot of people indoors for the season. 

In this blog, we will discuss the benefits of exercising in the cold, strategies for exercising in colder temperatures, the precautions for exercise during colder weather, and you’ll be provided with an easy warm-up to do before going outside to prevent injuries or complications.

Benefits of Exercise in the Cold

1. Boosts your immune system.

The winter months are when we see spikes in the incidence of the cold, flu, and other illnesses. Exercise, in general, promotes a better immune system response so you can stay healthy.

2. Burns more calories than exercising in the summer.

Research shows that exercising in the cold can utilize more calories and people can see more fat loss in the winter. 

3. Helps promote better mental health.

With the shorter days during the winter months, staying inside can cause lower energy and a worse mood. Exercising in the winter can help improve your mental health.

4. Better cardiovascular workout. 

Cold weather forces your body to work harder during exercise. The heart works harder to pump blood around the body during cold weather exercise. As a result, we see higher VO2 improvements from colder weather exercise.

5. Presents new ways to exercise. 

The winter weather gives you the opportunity to try activities you may not have experienced before. 

Strategies for Exercise During the Winter Months

1. Bundle up

Proper gear is vital for the best exercise experience outdoors. Choose sweat-wicking and breathable fabrics to wear close to your body. Also make sure your gear is waterproof if you’re going to be around snow or other moisture. 

2. Switch it up. 

The winter months provide excellent opportunities for different types of activities that you can’t do during the warmer months. You can go winter hiking, snow shoeing, ice skating, skiing, or even sledding!

3. Join a gym

If you simply can’t get outside to exercise, joining a gym is a great option. The gym provides more equipment, a warmer environment, and there is usually a trainer to help get you started.

4. Exercise at home. 

If you’re not comfortable with joining a gym or exercising outside THERE IS NO REASON YOU CAN’T EXERCISE AT HOME. Simply, move some furniture, get some weights and complete your exercise program for all the benefits listed above.

5. Use an online video 

There are thousands of videos online that will take you through an exercise routine.

In addition, you can join a virtual exercise group, or follow your Enara Exercise Specialist’s exercise plan. 

6. Get a buddy. 

The winter months can make it difficult to see your friends and/or have support. Getting a buddy that has similar goals as you makes it easier to stay accountable to your plan.

7. Find a new active hobby. 

There are plenty of indoor active hobbies to try. Some examples include: indoor golf, pickleball, basketball, tennis, bowling, yoga studios, painting, wood working, etc. 

8. Sign up for an athletic event.

A really good option is to sign up for an athletic event to prepare for during the winter. This allows for some additional motivation because you are training towards something.

9. Purchase a new piece of exercise equipment. 

Whenever you receive a new piece of equipment it can act like a “new toy.” Whenever you receive a new thing you are more likely to use it. Some options include a bike, treadmill, new dumbbells, resistance bands, a bench, barbell, or a total gym.

10. Find a new TV show or podcast to work out to.

We understand that exercise is not everyone’s #1 choice for a fun activity but exercising in concert with a new TV or podcast can keep you entertained and/or distracted from your heart pumping workout!

11. Make a new workout playlist.

Having a new playlist that gets you excited to exercise can be crucial to exercise performance. There is plenty of research that shows listening to music that you enjoy with a fast beat improves exercise performance over not having music. 

12. Create a challenge amongst friends and family.

It’s not a stretch to say you are not the only one trying to improve your health and fitness. A fun movement challenge with your family, friends, or coworkers provides a support system and some added motivation. You can do a daily squat challenge, percentage of weight loss challenge, or total pounds lifted in a month challenge. The opportunities are endless. 

Cold Weather Exercise Safety Tips

  1. We get more dehydrated during the winter than we do in the summer. This occurs because our body uses your water to keep your throat from getting dry. If you’ve ever come inside after being outdoors in the cold for too long and started coughing, that is why. 
  2. Make sure you warm-up before you go outside to exercise or do a chore like shoveling. There is a high incidence rate of chest pain during shoveling from not warming up, jumping in too quickly, and being dehydrated. Below is an easy warm-up before you get outside.
  3. Dress for the weather. Make sure you dress in layers and avoid exposed skin as much as possible.
  4. Make sure you have the correct footwear. If it’s icy outside make sure your shoes have microspikes to help avoid slipping and falling. 
Wind Chill Temp How to Adjust Your Workout
30-25 ℉ Be aware of the possibility of cold injuries. Total Exposure time: 2 hours
25-15 ℉ Cover all exposed skin as much as possible. Total Exposure time: 1 hour
15-0 ℉ Consider limiting/modifying activity to limit exposure. Total Exposure Time: 30 Minutes
<0 ℉ Cancel workout and reschedule. Move inside if possible.

Winter Exercise: Warm-Up Routine

You can follow this warm-up: do each movement for 1 minute 2 times. 

Alternating Knee Hug

Alternate Toe Touches

Arm Circles

Winter Exercise: Conclusion

The cold weather is a poor excuse for not following through with your exercise plan. There are numerous ways to continue working towards your health and fitness goals even with colder weather. Research shows most people gain weight during the fall and winter. Maintaining your exercise routine during these months is vital to your continued longevity and progress towards your goals. Reach out to your Enara Exercise Specialist for help! You got this!

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