When the sun is shining in the sky, it’s not hard to feel inspired and want to step out into the great outdoors and burn a few calories. But when the cold winds of winter arrive, the idea of hunkering down around a fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate seems far more enticing. So how do you stay in shape when the cooler weather arrives? Live Science spoke to the experts and found six ways to keep exercising in winter.
By applying these ideas to your workouts, you'll be able to keep those extra calories at bay and keep a smile on your face until springtime. During the winter months, you should still be able to find a workout that will encourage you to climb out of bed; whether that’s powering through a circuit on an exercise bike or stepping out into the great outdoors and taking advantage of some of the fun that winter sports have to offer.
You can check out our buying guide for the best exercise bikes to see whether an indoor bike is the right choice for you this winter, or choose from any of our selection of the best rowing machines instead.
Six ways to keep exercising in winter: How to stay active all year around
Hit the slopes
While your favorite summer sports may be on hold, it’s time to embrace what winter has to offer. When the snow starts to fall, nature’s theme park is open. While skiing, snowboarding, and even sledding can be fun, there’s no doubt that those fun winter workouts are also serious calorie burners. According to the Mayo Clinic, a person weighing 160lb can burn 314 calories an hour while skiing. If it is a good day on the slopes, you can still get blue skies and maybe a glass of mulled wine or beer during the apres-ski.
Do a fun run
Jeff Parke owner of Top Fitness magazine said it’s helpful to sign up for an event to keep you motivated to train. "There are so many types of races, obstacle courses, and competitions even during the winter months. Try finding a holiday-themed running event like a Turkey Trot or a Jingle Bell Run," he said. "Active.com is a great site to visit to find races in your area."
Create a home gym
Make room in your house for a home gym. If you’re used to working out you might already have this established, but if you’re new to fitness, you could install an exercise bike or treadmill, a yoga mat, and a few hand weights. Consult with a personal trainer to find out what you need. Snowboard instructor Lorraine Lam said: "I have a dedicated workout space at my house, which helps me stay active when the temperature outside is uninviting. Even if you don’t have much room, you can still get a yoga mat and learn bodyweight exercises to keep moving when you don’t want to go outside."
Start a workout club
California-based personal trainer Kawan Karadagh said that the best way to stay on track during the colder months is to work out with friends. "Starting a workout club is a great way to stay accountable, make new friends and see your progress during the winter months," he told Live Science. You can follow YouTube fitness videos, have a dance party or play an active video game that gets you on your feet. Researchers from the University of Aberdeen revealed that finding a new gym buddy not only increased the amount of exercise that a person did, but if their gym buddy was emotionally supportive they worked out even harder.
Train at lunch time
Personal trainer Josh Schlottman from Napa Valley said that if the cold and dark mornings and early evenings in the winter months discourage you from exercising, switch it to your lunchtime. "Mid-day is usually the warmest and brightest time of the day, so that you might find some extra workout motivation during these hours," said Schlottman. "Go for a walk or jog and find a bench you can do resistance strength training exercises on."
Do a HIIT session
Alternatively, if you already have lunch-time plans and want to tick off your exercise before it gets dark, personal trainer Elliott Upton of Ultimate Performance recommends that you schedule a HIIT session. Elliot told Live Science: "It’s a good way to keep your activity levels up when typically the ‘shorter’ days and inclement weather can reduce your daily activity levels and therefore your energy expenditure".
A study by the University of Colorado found that a 30-minute HIIT session can burn up to 30 percent more calories than 30-minutes of running or cycling. For a HIIT workout, Upton suggests you do 10 rounds of the following, which should take 15 minutes. Sprint as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then walk, breathe and recover for one minute. He recommends that you do this a maximum of three times a week. "While some HIIT is great, too much can be very tough on your recovery," said Upton.
Things to remember when exercising in winter
Warmup: When you are working out in the winter, your warmup is key. "One of the biggest reasons you warm-up is to increase your core temperature and that’s going to take a little longer if you’re out in the cold," said track coach David Stone, who is based at Elmhurst University in Chicago. "When I’m coaching someone in colder temperatures, I change their warm-up to continuous movement: we move from walking drills into skipping or jogging drills, and then onto higher tempo movement drills. We then minimize the time between the warmup and the actual workout."
Hydrate: Hydration is also important during the winter months. Just because it’s not hot, doesn’t mean that you’re not losing water said Stone. "You’re still dehydrating in the winter, but maybe not getting the signals as clearly because of the temperature change," he said.
Dress the part: Los Angeles personal trainer and owner of Hau.Fit Chris Lee said: "Consider biking and running outside while equipped with warm reflective apparel and lighting accessories for comfort and safety. Wear a face mask to warm the air entering your lungs, as well as gloves to keep your hands warm." Consult with a doctor before beginning any new exercise regime to make sure that you are medically able to participate.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.
Claire Turrell is a freelance journalist and an editor who is based in Singapore. She was the launch editor of SHAPE Middle East. Her work has been published by Nat Geo, Harper's BAZAAR, Insider, The Independent as well as the BBC. Claire studied English Literature at the Manchester Metropolitan University.