8 Tips for Staying Active During the Winter

The winter can be the most challenging time to stick with fitness and movement goals. Scheduling often combats with shorter days, cold weather can decrease motivation, and then the holidays are the cherry on top.

If you struggle to keep moving during the months, you’re not alone. Here are some practical tips to help you stay active during the colder seasons so that you can stay on track to achieve your goals.

Plan for Hydration

Most people find it easier to focus on hydration during the warmer months, as you’re more likely to feel thirsty in the heat. However, thirst isn’t the best signal of dehydration — it can also present as a headache, tiredness, or even feelings of hunger. Regardless, your body still needs sufficient hydration to fuel your activities during the winter.

Set a small daily goal of tracking your hydration and ensuring your body has what it needs to get moving. You can use hydration packs during your activities to help remind you to keep drinking and aid in tracking. While you may not require as much water during winter activities as you do during the summer months, you should still aim to have one liter of water for each hour of exercise.

Prioritize Warmth

One of the biggest obstacles for those trying to stay active during the winter months is the cold weather. If you’re someone who hates the cold, it doesn’t matter how consistent you are the rest of the year; the winter will be demoralizing and unmotivating.

Investing in high-quality thermal gear to keep you warm is a life-changer for staying active during the winter. Start with a moisture-wicking thermal layer under your clothing to keep your core body temperature warm, then work on the outside layers. Add a hat, gloves, buff to protect your skin, and water-resistant spray for your athletic footwear for extra protection.

Keeping your face and mouth covered during sub-zero temperatures is also important for staying safe and healthy during the winter months. If your goal is to walk or run outside during the winter, this simple accessory is well worth it.

Find the Right Activity

Many people are inspired to set new fitness goals for the New Year. However, if you start an exercise routine because you think you should, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead of jumping aboard the latest fad exercise routine, choose an activity you like instead — especially when trying to stay motivated during the winter months.

For example, while running may burn more calories than walking, it won’t burn any if you don’t do it because you hate it. Conversely, getting consistent with walking will help you create a sustainable routine that you can scale up later.

It’s also ok to have an entirely different form of exercise during the winter months versus the warmer months. If you play soccer in a recreational league in the summer, perhaps you could try weightlifting or cross-country skiing in the winter. The key is to find something that you can commit to based on the limitations of the season.

Plan Around the Weather

You’ll need to plan ahead to stay active during the winter. Start the week by looking at the forecast to plan around bad weather. It’s integral to work flexibility into your planning to help prevent missed days. For example, if you typically workout Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you may have to pivot if there’s a snowstorm coming on Wednesday.

Planning around the weather will also help you prepare the proper gear in advance to ensure you’re ready to get moving without looking for your buff or thermal leggings.

Prioritize Movement Over Exercise

When we consider being active, it’s common to hold onto the word “exercise.” During the winter months, consider shifting to the word “movement” instead. This mindset shift takes the pressure off getting in an intense, pre-programmed workout and lets you explore different ways of getting your body moving.

Consider the fact that shoveling, coasting, or playing outside with your kids are all forms of physical movement that burn calories and get your body moving. However, fixating on exercise sets you up to overlook those activities which are potentially more attainable during the winter months.

“Movement” also encompasses opportunities for non-exercise physical activities, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further away from the grocery store. Start the day by considering how you can get more movement, even if it’s just cleaning or working in a few more steps.

Research Indoor Activities

The winter is a great time to look at local recreation programs and do something different. Try out a few different exercise classes, head to the local pool, or try indoor rock climbing or laser tag. Take this opportunity to try new things and get your physical activity in an indoor setting.

Set Action-Based Goals

Most of the goals we set are results-based. For example, wanting to run a half marathon or lose 10 pounds. Those goals fixate on the end result rather than how you’re going to get there. Instead, set action-based goals, like “I will achieve 150 minutes of physical activity each week” or “I will spend at least 15 minutes outside per day.”

By setting action-based goals, you take ownership over the process and improve your chances of success.

Reward Your Efforts

Extrinsic motivation is a powerful thing, especially when creating an active routine. Keep yourself motivated during the winter by creating a reward system.

Perhaps every time you go for a walk or run outdoors, you enjoy a hot cup of tea and some quiet time with a book or watching Netflix. Alternatively, if you achieve your action-based goals each week, you could treat yourself to a latte from your favorite coffee shop or a warm bubble bath.

Using warm rewards can be especially motivating during the winter, and give you something to look forward to after braving the cold.

With these practical tips, you can push yourself to stay active during the winter months. Don’t forget to get your family and friends involved. And don’t forget that playing — whether it’s building snowmen or going coasting — is a tried and true form of physical activity that is also really fun for everyone.

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