If you have trouble staying active during the winter, you’re not alone. Working out consistently is a challenge in and of itself—add cold and darkness to the mix and it’s even harder to get going.
But winter also offers unique workout options you don’t have at other times throughout the year. Once the holidays are over, most people have more free time until their schedules pick up again in the spring and summer—which is the perfect time to join a class or sports team, or try a new workout routine. And if you live in a snowy climate, the snow can become both a playground and your temporary workout equipment.
Physical activity can add some much-needed variety to your life (and help you beat the cold!) when you’re spending more time than usual inside. If running on the treadmill or going to the gym isn’t as fulfilling as you’d like it to be, try one of these winter workouts a few days a week to keep your workout routine fresh and rewarding.
If you live near the slopes, take advantage of as many ski trips as you can. Skiing is an enjoyable enough activity to make you forget you’re surpassing your physical activity goal for the day. And you will definitely surpass it—your legs especially will get a nice workout. Plus, skiing is an activity you can enjoy with family and friends, and the views are unparalleled—it definitely beats the blank walls and dim lighting in your basement.
If skiing doesn’t work with your budget or schedule, sledding can be just as fun, and it’s a great family activity you can do for free. A good sledding hill can provide a few solid hours of physical exertion—whether you’re trekking up a hill on foot or sailing down on a sled.
Pro tip: If the thought of another walk up the hill is too much to handle, you can always build a snowman while you wait for others in your group to burn off all their energy. A snowball fight probably wouldn’t be met with too much resistance, either.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who lists “shoveling snow” as one of their favorite activities, but it’s part of the package if you live in an area that gets more than a few snowstorms a year. But here’s the bright side: if you shovel snow in the morning, you can skip your planned workout for the day. Because as anyone who has shoveled heavy, wet snow can attest, every calorie burned feels like triple what you would burn at the gym.
If snow isn’t in your forecast, you can always hit up a nearby trail or track and get a good run in. Many people like to register for winter races as motivation to train and stay active during the cold months. And frankly, running in the cold can be a lot more pleasant than running in the heat. After a few minutes of motion, the chilly air becomes refreshing.
Zumba or gym class
The great outdoors have a lot to offer in the winter, but sometimes it’s better to stay inside. Joining a Zumba class or other gym class solves the “boring workout” dilemma and keeps you connected to people during what can be a lonely, isolating time. If you can set aside a few hours a week for this type of physical activity, your physical and mental health will thank you.
Swimming is often thought of as the quintessential summer activity, but indoor swimming might be winter’s best-kept secret. For starters, most indoor swimming pools are warm. And you can leave all the winter gear at home. All you need is a swimsuit (and perhaps some goggles) and you’re ready for an invigorating workout.
Basketball, racquetball, or pickleball
If you have access to a swimming pool, chances are there will be a court for basketball, racquetball, or pickleball nearby, too. See if your community has any sports teams you can sign up for, or consider forming one of your own. This way you can stay physically fit and see your friends regularly (or make new ones!)—you really can’t lose with this option.
Home workout challenges
Sure, you say, all this sounds good in theory. But what if I’m not able to leave the house? What if I don’t have the time, or the equipment, or a schedule I can coordinate with others?
Never fear. With a little creativity you can still get your heart pumping at home. Here are a few ideas:
Turn on a 30-minute TV show and do pushups every time a character gets in a car. Do 10 crunches whenever a scene is set at night. Do five jumping jacks any time someone says something funny. You can individualize this challenge any way you want, making adjustments as you go along. For some friendly competition, invite whoever is home to participate with you!
Start—or end—your day with 10 minutes of stretching
Do a plank, wall sit, or a few yoga poses while dinner is in the oven
Walk up and down the stairs for a few minutes
Turn on some music and tackle some household chores
Don’t let the colder weather force you into hibernation. There are plenty of ways to stay active during the winter, many of which double as fun social activities. Enjoy some of the best of what winter has to offer by incorporating these winter workouts into your schedule whenever you can.