Seven Ways to Keep your Exercise Routine in Full Gear During the Winter Months

Nicolas Charron, ACSM EP-C – Physical Activity Health Educator

Exercising in the winter can be a tough proposition.  Finding the motivation to keep physically fit can be challenging, especially on those days when it seems much more appealing to stay warm and cozy on the couch.  If you want to keep up with your New Year’s exercise resolutions or are just eager to stay active, here are some must-know tips to help you prep for exercise during cold winter days.

winter exercise1. Check the temp outside.
In North Carolina, this particular tip may not be as critical as in Maine or Michigan, but it’s good to know none the less. Exercising for prolonged periods of time in a cold environment (especially if proper precautions are not followed) can increase your risk of hypothermia and frostbite.

Many factors should be considered for safe winter fitness: outside temperature, layering, and exercise duration and intensity. To put it simply, be aware of the temperature fluctuations where you live, with particular regards to windchill.

2. Drink plenty of water and use sunscreen.
Winter is normally associated with cold, cloudy weather.  For this reason, many people may not think to use sunscreen to protect exposed skin and place less importance on drinking more water and eating more water-filled foods during the winter.  This can be dangerous. Hydration and sun protection are equally important during cold weather as they are during warmer times of the year.

You are more likely to sweat when you’re bundled up, which can lead to dehydration. Additionally, even though the winter sun may not feel as intense as in the summer, prolonged exposure can still be very damaging to your skin. So be sure to drink plenty of water and apply sunscreen when exercising in cold weather.

3. Dress the part.
When exercising outdoors during the winter, make sure you’re properly dressed for the activity.  Appropriate clothing is a very important component of outdoor fitness in general, but especially in colder temperatures. Without proper insulation, your muscles are much more prone to cramping and stiffness, which can lead to injury.  Additionally, tight fitting clothing becomes damp more easily, which increases your risk of hypothermia and other ailments.

  • Wear loose fitting clothing.
  • Dress in layers.
  • Wear water wicking fabrics in order to stay dry.


4. Warm up.
Warming up adequately is always important, but it is even more critical before training in a cold climate.  Your muscles and joints are more prone to stiffen in colder temperatures, which may lead to cramps and injuries.  So take the extra time to warm up before going outside to exercise.

5. Mix it up and make it fun!
Winter exercise offers many options. If you live in the snowier sections of NC, consider seasonal exercises, such as cross-country skiing, snowboarding or down-hill skiing.  Even something as simple as a snowball fight with friends will introduce an element of fun into your routine. The winter months can be a nice opportunity to get out of your exercise rut and do something you don’t ordinarily do.

6. Bring it inside.
Be flexible with your routine. NC is bound to get ice and/or snow, at some point.  Plus, you may occasionally just not feel up to braving the elements.  When this happens, don’t let the weather get in the way of your regimen. Try some alternative indoor activities, such as yoga or dance.  The gym is also always a great option!

7. Maintain your motivation.
Stay motivated! Take your exercise routine day by day.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint. When you maintain a regular schedule of moderate exercise five days a week for an extended period of time, the results can be dramatic. Even short sporadic periods of intense exercise during the winter is important to overall health.

Keep it safe, make it fun and stay motivated.


Physical activity during winter months, indoors and out.  Michigan State University Extension

11 ways to stay active in winter
.  Heart & Stroke Foundation